The University of Rhode Island’s theatre program finished presenting Sarah Ruhl’s play “In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)” this past Sunday.

The play takes place during  the dawn of electricity, in Dr. and Mrs. Givings’s home. Dr. Givings treats patients suffering from “hysteria,” or what later becomes known as pent-up sexual frustration.  He provides a wide variety of patients with treatment for their hysteria using an electrical machine that he invented. The show was performed from October 15-17, 22-24, 18 and 25.

The whole play takes place within two rooms of the house that Dr. and Mrs. Givings share: the foyer and the mysterious “other room” in which Dr. Givings treats his patients.  Mrs. Givings finds herself feeling neglected as Dr. Givings spends all of his time taking care of patients. They have a child together who she feels disconnected from, as she cannot produce the milk to feed it. All of this leaves her feeling very lonely and frustrated.

On top of that, her husband won’t share with her what he does in the other room with his patients. The audience is able to see that the treatment is basically just him using his revolutionary electrical machine, the vibrator, on his sexually-frustrated patients.  

As the play goes on, Mrs. Givings becomes increasingly curious as to what goes on behind the locked door of her husband’s office. She also is frustrated with his apparent lack of interest in her. Mrs. Givings eventually breaks into her husband’s office along with another one of his patients and discovers his electrical machine for herself.  While it does work for her at first, she finds it unsatisfyingly impersonal.  

The play reaches its boiling point when Mrs. Givings develops feelings for another one of Dr. Givings’s patients. Dr. Givings becomes jealous and finally pays attention to her, which is ultimately what she wanted. The play ends with Mrs. Givings convincing the Dr. to have a little spontaneity. The closing scene shows the two spontaneously having sex outside in the snow while making snow angels.

The play was a humorous take on sexual discovery and was fairly successful at conjuring up laughter from the audience.  A lot of the jokes consisted of the characters poking fun at the sexual tension in the room without directly addressing or being able to identify what they were dealing with. They employed a tongue-in-cheek ignorance of what they were experiencing, punctuated by inadvertent sexual innuendos to bring in the laughs.  

The crowd responded relatively well considering the risqué subject matter, and, for the most part, simply appreciated the humor being presented. They laughed at a majority of the jokes and at the end quite a few stood up and clapped.