The Student Productions Association began its fall performance of Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) Nov. 14 at Lane’s Blue Door Theater in Building 6.
One may think that attending a production titled The Vibrator Play would entail being greeted at the door by lewd behavior, sexual deviance and an act one tick away from porn on the grand stage.
A lot of people hear (the title) and think it’s porn,” Ali Thorson, a Lane theater major who plays the role of Annie said. “No, it isn’t porn. It’s a classical play.”
In the Next Room is a tactful and historical production about the medical innovation of the vibrator, which was used to treat several ailments typically ascribed to women in the late 19th century.
Some of these symptoms included emotional outbursts, depression, sensitivity to light and severe stress.
“It’s a historical fact that doctors back in the day used … vibrators to treat women with hysteria, which is what they labeled anything from drowsiness during the day to freaking out at their husbands,” SPA President David Harvey said. “It was all hysteria.”
Women were not the only ones to benefit from such a practice. Although it was a rare occurrence for a man to suffer from hysteria, there were such cases, according to the play.
Leonard’s experience is at first shocking and then confusing — and then rather pleasing. And then, of course, the paroxysm comes and he doesn’t know what to make of it because the last time he had one of those he was trouncing around a bed in Italy,” student-actor Ben Buchanan said.
Buchanan, who plays the role of an English gentleman Leonard Irving, spoke about his character’s experience with Dr. Givings.
To have something so invasive cure him of such a disease is revolutionary,” he said.
This play deals with controversial issues such as sex, race, women’s issues like motherhood and gender roles.
Chelyce Chambers, a member of Actors Cabaret of Eugene, plays the role of Elizabeth, the Givings’ wet nurse.
The first scene sums up the times,” Chambers said, “times of sexism and racism and sexual deprivation that women had.”
Willow Norton, a former Lane student in town from New York City, who was hired to direct this production, said In The Next Room “is about marriage, intimacy, and electricity. The themes of identity, sexuality, and relationships ring true for every audience.”
The play is beautiful and controversial, Buchanan said, and inappropriate for children.
“Come see the show!” Harvey said.