“In The Next Room” presented by Cleveland Play House

Cleveland Play House presents one of the most ambitious productions of the year.  In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play, CPH’s last main stage production for the 2011-2012 season, is now playing in the Second Stage theatre at PlayhouseSquare.  In the Next Room also serves as the anchor production for this year’s New Ground Theatre Festival (formerly FusionFest)

Written by playwright Sarah Ruhl, and directed by Laura Kepley, CPH’s associate artistic director, In the Next Room is a very powerful play of great humor, great emotion, and great intellect.  It is 1880’s America, in a prosperous town near New York City, where a new “medical instrument” is being used to treat female hysteria.  Sabrina Daldry arrives, with her husband, to the home of Dr. and Mrs. Givings for treatment.  Over the course of the play, Mrs. Daldry’s condition improves dramatically, in many senses of the word.  But this “medical instrument” also evolves into something much more… something that speaks to a woman’s heart, not just to the “hysteria” of her mind.

In the Next Room is a very clever and very witty play, but it is also a dramatic and historical work.  Not a historical epic, perhaps, as was The Life of Galileo, CPH’s season opener, but a historical, period piece that presents the Victorian era and the attitudes and social norms that went with it… especially, attitudes of sex and intimacy.

In the Next Room recreates the Victorian era on stage with one of the most spectacular sets and some of the most elegant costumes that I have seen in years.  And the staging of this play in the Second Stage is ingenious.  Using the thrust stage configuration, CPH has created a beautiful Victorian home among the audience members while still providing a very intimate setting for a very intimate play.

Although some may see In the Next Room as a “woman’s play,” it is not, at all.  It is a very human, and thought-provoking, play that will appeal to all audiences, women and men, alike.  But I would have to think that all of those women who kept Menopause: The Musical playing for more than two years at the 14th Street Theatre would want to see In the Next Room, as well.  In the Next Room is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and it has a very revealing, even shocking, ending that you may never forget!  Please note that In the Next Room is for mature audiences.

I can say, with all sincerity, that In the Next Room is one of the best theatrical productions that I have seen this theatre season.  And believe me, I have seen quite a few.  I had not seen a Sarah Ruhl play before this production, nor was I very familiar with this wonderful, young playwright (only 37 years old) or her work.  But now I want to see more… Ruhl rules!  This is a show well worth the ticket price.  In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play has been held over a week and will now run through May 13.

This year’s New Ground Theatre Festival features a collection of new works in CPH’s new home.  The line-up includes Every Good Boy Deserves Favor: A Play for Actors and Orchestra (May 3-5, Allen Theatre), the First Annual Roe Green Award New Play Reading (May 5, Lab Theatre), the Dorothy Silver Playwriting Winner (May 6, Lab Theatre), Bust (May 10-12, Lab Theatre), The Rap Guide to Evolution (May 11-12, 14th Street Theatre), and The Fagin Effect (a new play reading, May 12, Lab Theatre).  The New Ground Theatre Festival runs May 3-12.

Cleveland Play House, the nation’s first and longest-running professional theatre company, continues to offer some of the very best professional theatre in the country.  Now in its 96th season, it is located in the Allen Theatre Complex at PlayhouseSquare.  For more information about Cleveland Play House, In the Next Room, the New Ground Theatre Festival, or the new 2012-2013 Season, please visit the CPH website at www.ClevelandPlayHouse.com.  For more information about PlayhouseSquare, its website is www.PlayhouseSquare.org.

- Christopher S. Musselman

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