Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, now at Covington’s Carnegie Center in a production by the drama program at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, has a current running through it. The production is warm, bright and slightly shocking. The story centers on two women, unhappy in marriage and deeply disappointed with sex. They seek remedies; one looks to relieve her loneliness and boredom, the other hopes to end her hysteria and reverse her unhappiness.
One is married to a doctor, a scientist enamored of electricity. He has invented an electrical machine that, when pressed against a certain body part, causes women to shudder, even scream then suddenly relax, free of anxiety and closer good health. His effervescent and intuitive wife is desperate to try it, but he refuses. Instead, she watches, envious, as other women depart his office, euphoric and blushing.
Set in the parlor of a comfortable 1880s home, the production fits snugly in the Carnegie’s elegant theater. Lighting designer Gustavo Valdes’s lighting design paints the production with romantic, electric lamplight. The space has the breadth and depth of a large theater, and an inviting openness that feels intimate. Audience members can see an actor’s eyes widen or take a deep breath, small choices that add life to the characters and texture to the play.
The CCM cast directed by Ed Cohen handles the play’s comic and sorrowful moments with grace and ease. Actress Caroline Shannon has a sophisticated, understated style that fixes her as the production’s nucleus but never detracts from other engaging plots and people onstage with her.
The play has strong sexual content and situations. The words sex, orgasm and masturbation are rarely uttered, but are like elephants in the room. At its core, however, this delightful, surprising romp is not about bliss; it’s about love.
I N THE NEXT ROOM, OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY , presented at the Carnegie Center in Covington, continues through Nov. 20. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here .