“In the Next Room, or the vibrator play” at ACT

Sarah Ruhl is viewed by many as one of the most accomplished playwrights on the contemporary scene. She’s been awarded a generous Genius Award from the MacArthur Foundation and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. This play was nominated for a variety of Tony’s in 2010. So it pains to tell you I didn’t really like the vibrator play.

Oh yes, it’s very funny with the laughs coming at a rapid pace. The audience loved it the night I saw it, and I would guess many of you would like it too. It’s a sex comedy for the intelligentsia who delight in reading more depth into a work than the author provides.

For me it was a one trick pony. Give a woman a vibrator and watch her squirm in delight. Or shape it like a phallus and offer rear entry to a man for the same reaction. Others have commented on its exploration of male control over female lives, minds, and bodies. Some see within it a riff on lesbianism, as well as a brief history of female sexuality in the 19th C. And some even suggest it directs our attention to the remarkable advances made possible with the invention of electricity. I admit it touches on all of those things. But for me, it just wasn’t a cohesive piece of theatre that spoke to my mind as well as my erogenous zone. There were too many orgasms but too little satisfaction.

Though the play seemed flawed, I liked the ACT production. It’s lush. Staging is inventive, attractive and efficient. The acting is excellent, and the costumes and set work beautifully to evoke the upper-middle class late 19th Century environment into which the author thrusts us.

So, good production of a somewhat weak play. But remember, that’s a minority viewpoint,

Through August 28 at A Contemporary Theatre, 700 Union Street, Seattle, (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org)

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