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REVIEW: In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) substantial, with humor & heart

Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com

Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com

Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com

Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com

Photos by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com

Review by Shelli Park

As the proverbial curtain rises, we are witness to the dawn of electricity in domestic life. A time when the magic of a harnessed electrical current creates the feeling of endless possibilities, of wonder and excitement.

Though Burien Actors Theatre’s In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) is set in the late 1800’s, the themes have a universality which resonates today. Sarah Ruhl, the author, is a brilliant writer. It takes vision to put together a play which intertwines distinct personalities and multiple points of action on stage so artfully.

It also takes a strong Director to guide the actors and action in such a way that there is not a feeling of competition on stage but harmony even amidst emotional upheaval. In this case, there are two directors. Both are strong women with vision. Rochelle Flynn and Maggie Larrick make a great team in this production and we benefit from their intuition and sensitivity, along with their collective strength.

We are introduced to a doctor in a small East Coast spa town, Dr. Givings (Wade Hicks), who is building on Freud’s work with the Victorian diagnosis of hysteria in women. Dr. Givings is offering a new physical therapy which works magic to release the hysteria-causing magnetic fluid built up inside a woman’s womb. He is wonderfully detached from the reality of his new therapy. With the doctor’s guidance, the machine, this amazing machine, and sometimes with the additional assistance of his nurse, Annie (Pepper Hambrick), stimulates a paroxysm from his patients. Through the therapy, Dr. Givings tells stories from his experience in life purposefully, or innocently disassociating himself from the very personal outcome of his revolutionary therapy.

This is a substantial play. It has humor, and heart, which keeps the action moving along, but we are also immersed in a distilled series of moments filled with deeper issues. We witness the dawn of electricity and its effects. We are faced with Victorian attitudes towards women, and about race, life and death, and sexuality in its various forms. And we mustn’t forget about love, which requires that we become vulnerable in order to fully experience it. We eavesdrop on discussions of philosophy, religion, and rain.

The cast of this show is wonderful. These are seven strong actors and they work as an ensemble. Each actor holds his/her character through every glance, body language, and varying emotion. They have distinct personalities which they must portray convincingly, and each come off entirely believable.

The therapy contraption is an amazing centerpiece. I’m not sure where the design for this prop came from, but, along with a tool called the Chattanooga vibrator, are believable for the time period and are both entertaining and shocking, though hopefully not literally.

The set is built, and dressed, beautifully. Set design is by Albie Clementi, with props by Cyndi Baumgardner. The antiseptic white of the doctor’s office stands stage left in stark contrast to the warmth and vitality of the home, stage right, and reflects the differing personalities of the husband and wife who reside here. I noticed the lighting design in this production, not because I was paying more attention, or that it was not well done, but because it was so artfully designed, creating mood and time period. Well done, Zanna Paulson.

If I sound really enthusiastic, it is because I am. I left the play feeling good as though I had participated in something important. I usually want to leave the theatre right away after a performance in order to process, not saying anything to the actors, keeping a bit of separation as a critic. Last night, however, I couldn’t help but tell the cast, as they stood in the lobby to meet theatre-goers, that they did a great job. I am proud of BAT for producing this play, and am excited for Burien. If this is the level of theater we are privileged to host, then we are in good shape as we continue to develop into the serious arts community so many of us desire.

To end, my favorite character in this play, and it is so difficult to narrow it down, is Catherine Givings, the doctor’s wife, played by Jessica Robins. Robins plays a wonderfully bright and passionate woman. She is full of life and intelligence, and is a joy to watch. At the end of the play, both Givings and Hicks play a scene in the woods in which they are marvelously vulnerable and brave. And they are beautiful.

TICKETS
Ticket prices range from $7 to $20. Student tickets are just $10. For tickets, special deals or other information, go online to www.burienactorstheatre.org or call 206-242-5180.

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THE CAST, DIRECTOR AND COMPOSER
Rochelle Flynn and Maggie Larrick are co-directing a talented cast: Pepper Hambrick (Annie), Wade Hicks (Dr. Givings), Connor Kinzer (Leo Irving), Marc “Mok” Moser (Mr. Daldry), Jessica Robins (Catherine Givings), Tiana Ross (Elizabeth) and Natalie Schmidt (Sabrina Daldry).

ABOUT BURIEN ACTORS THEATRE
Exciting live theater has been a tradition in Burien since 1955. Incorporated in 1980, Burien Actors Theatre (BAT) has been a leading producer of quality live theater serving residents of the Seattle and south Puget Sound areas.

Burien Actors Theatre gives audiences an intriguing and invigorating theatre experience with unusual and fantastical productions they can’t get on film or see anywhere else. The company’s mission is to treat audiences to productions of the highest artistic integrity that excite, engage and involve both the local and expanding theatrical communities in the Puget Sound region.

BAT is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) entity and operates on revenue from ticket sales, donations, grants, sponsorships and volunteers.

The theater is located at 14501 4th Ave SW in Burien; phone: (206) 242-5180.

Show dates and times:

  • Saturday – Feb 13 at 8:00 p.m. – Date Night, half-off tickets!
  • Sunday – Feb 14 at 2:00 p.m. – $7 Sunday + Valentines’ Day Concert – Rat City Brass from 7:30 pm to 9 pm – Click to get tickets online.
  • Friday – Feb 19 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday – Feb 20 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Sunday – Feb 21 at 2:00 p.m.
  • Friday – Feb 26 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday – Feb 27 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Sunday – Feb 28 at 2:00 p.m.
  • Friday – March 4 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday – March 5 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Sunday – March 6 at 2:00 p.m.

TICKET PRICES AND PACKAGES FOR “IN THE NEXT ROOM, OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY”

Tickets at the Box Office (all shows):

  • General: $20
  • Senior: $17
  • Student: $10

HALF-PRICE NIGHT: Only on Feb. 13, all tickets are half price.

SEVEN DOLLAR SUNDAYOnly on Feb. 14 all tickets are just $7!  Remember, Sunday is a 2 p.m. matinee performance only.

Dinner and a Show Package: This package includes a two-course meal at Mark Restaurant & Bar plus a ticket to the show; cost is $35 per person. Contact the Mark at 206-241-6275.



This post first appeared on The B-Town (Burien), please read the originial post: here

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REVIEW: In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) substantial, with humor & heart

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