Actors Theatre Opens Season With In the Next Room (Or The Vibrator Play) 10/29-11/4
Staying true to its roots of bringing provocative, thoughtful and, quite often, conversation-generating plays to Herberger Theatre's Stage West, Actors Theatre opens its 25th anniversary season with Sarah Ruhl's In The Next Room (Or The Vibrator Play), a comedy about marriage, intimacy and electricity, from Oct. 29 through Nov. 14.
Directed by Matthew Wiener, In the Next Room is set in the 1880s just after electricity started charging people's homes (and, in this case, their lives) and is based on the bizarre historical fact that doctors used vibrators to treat "hysterical" women (and some men). The show, which explores how this "new" therapy affects the entire household of one doctor and his wife, is based on Rachel P. Maines' 1999 book, "The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction," which also will be the focus of an upcoming movie.
The show premiered Feb. 5, 2009 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre before moving to Broadway where it earned three 2010 Tony Award nominations. The New York Times described playwright Ruhl as "one of the most gifted and adventurous American Playwrights to emerge in recent years."
Actors Theatre will present three plays this season by American women playwrights including Ruhl, Melissa James Gibson's This and Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation.
The Actors Theatre production features Francis Jue as Dr. Givings; Angelica Howland as his wife, Catherine; Erica Connell (Sabrina Daldry), Cale Epps (Mr. Daldry), Lillie Richardson (Elizabeth); Lauren Dykes (Annie) and Zac Yurkovic (Leo Irving).
Jue, whose career spans Broadway, Off-Broadway and Regional Theatre, mostly in San Francisco, won the 2008 Obie Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in David Henry Hwang's Yellow Face at The Public Theatre in New York City. His credits also include appearances on television's Law and Order: SVU, The Good Wife, Talk to Me and One Life to Live.
Howland most recently performed under Wiener's direction in Doubt, A Parable while Epps and Richardson are familiar faces on The Actors Theatre stage.
In the Next Room takes place in Dr. Givings' office and adjoining parlor. The good doctor specializes in treating hysteria in women using what was then considered to be the standard treatment, bringing them to orgasm, using a piece of equipment newly powered by electricity that causes lights in the office to flicker when it's in use.
In its review, The New York Times pointed out that Ruhl "makes lively but never cheap sport of the distance between our perceptions of Dr. Givings's methods and the notions of the characters themselves. (The details of the treatment are all based on documented history.) Female sexual pleasure is so far from the mind of the average 19th-century man that he cannot recognize its display even with it is taking place literally beneath his nose."
Joining Wiener on the production team are costume designer Connie Furr, who has been tasked with recreating the corsets and multi-petticoated fashions of the times; set designer Jeff Thomson, whose renderings of the stage setting are lush and full; lighting designer Paul Black; sound designer Chris Neumeyer; and hair and makeup artist Amanda Gran.
Season tickets for the five-play 2010-11 season are $125. Season passes for three, four or five plays also are available. Individual tickets range from $28 to $48. Tickets can be purchased online at www.actorstheatrephx.org.
In the Next Room will be followed by the final year of Actors Theatre's annual musical production of A Christmas Carol, which will end its 19-year run from Dec. 4-24.
From Jan. 21-Feb. 6, Ron May will direct This, Melissa James Gibson's bright, witty and unromantic comedy about a circle of friends backing their way into middle age.