Get Cultured — May 23, 2016 at 3:40 pm

“In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play” Reeks of True Artistry

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Period pieces off-off Broadway get a bad rep. It has to do with preconceived ideas of what you are about to see. Because somethings gotta give, right? Most of these companies do not have a third of what a Broadway (and many Off-Broadway) production companies have, yet they dare to go into a genre that demands a lot to be able to do with a little. In a review earlier this year, I talked how doing operas in a black box were hard to do, and don’t really work because of the scope. The show looked like a college version of itself and not a bare production like they wanted us to think. In the period piece case, it’s not the scope, it’s the designs. And I’m not talking about a two to three character, one setting piece. I’m talking big production/large ensemble plays here. They demand elaborate stages, intricate sound work, legitimate costumes and sharp sounds. In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play by Sarah Ruhl is one of those plays and I’m here to say I’m wrong. Director Steve Hart Has shown me what a clever artist can do with the obvious limitations and put forth a better production than those with the money to pull it off.

The story starts with an arrangement of unusual yet familiar characters. I say unusual because at first they all seem to be playing the rules of the time, but as the story moves along, their character have massive changes that are seamlessly incorporated. Their growth feels natural, yet for some it comes from an abrupt action. And these performers do not drop the ball at any instance. From hilarious to dead serious, from quirky to raw, from curious to enlightening; they take it all in and out in display of what I can only call a masterclass. Especially Emma Clark as Mrs. Givings, who represents the ultimate contradiction of the play in the most mature and beautiful way. We all want something, we yearn it, but are we willing to give up comfort to get it? The production does a great job of showing how cowardly human beings can be as they are called into action.

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Another aspect I want to talk about it’s how brilliant the show is in combining themes together. What we are led to believe, is that this play is about the dawn of female sexuality, being that one of the main plot points is the invention of the vibrator. They use it for medical reasons as it alleviates stress. Then there’s Leo Irving (Jorge I. Sanchez), the sole male customer. That character brings art into the equation and the free spirit in which artists rejoice and suffer. That man represents the world outside of the house, while Mr. Giving (David Lawton) represents the house itself. Tradition versus global expansion, but with emotions at the stakes. We don’t see this dichotomy until the second act, and we don’t need to, it comes at the right time. The other theme explored is the perception of black culture and the beginning of accepted tolerance. Motherhood is quickly touched upon and then expanded upon in the second act. Both themes are intertwined and it leads to the best scene between two characters, as the milk nanny called Elizabeth quits her job for a heartbreaking reason. Believe me, I was in complete awe by Shakirah DeMessier’s performance in this piece.

But the main theme doesn’t reveal itself until late in the show, because it builds to the question: how important is love? When this gets answered at the end, it was a breathtaking theatrical moment, one that I will not forget anytime soon. Major props to director Steve Hart And the Wombat Productions team for not only pulling it off, but amazing me with it.

Out of 4 stars:

4 stars

Twisted Talk: What was the last Off-Off Broadway production you saw? Have you seen any Wombat Productions? Discuss below!

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Read our reviews! – Wombat Theatre Co.

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