In the Next Room by Sara Ruhl

2522 Words11 Pages
In the Next Room, or the vibrator play written by Sarah Ruhl premiered at the Berkley Repertory Theatre in February 2009, and later premiered on Broadway at Lincoln Center in November of 2009. Taking place at the dawn of the age of electricity around 1880 in a wealthy spa town on the skirts of New York City, this play follows the events taking place in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Givings. Mr. Givings is a scientist and a doctor, treating women for hysteria out of his home by using a clinical vibrating machine to induce paroxysms, or what we know today as orgasms. These induced paroxysms are strictly scientific, and are believed to release any congestion in the female womb, which is understood to be the cause of these hysterical symptoms. His wife, Mrs. Givings, quickly becomes curious about her husbands work, which remains under lock and key, in the next room. As Catherine follows her innocent instincts and her undying thirst for knowledge and human connection, she realizes her desire to find true intimacy with her husband. The result of her investigative work to find this intimacy is her first experience with the vibrating machine. It causes her whole world to shift upside down. Sarah Ruhl exposes the play’s thematic issues through this shift in Catherine’s world, and the experiences of her other characters. Through repeating her theme of lightness and darkness, in various manners and forms, visually and textually, Ruhl paints a metaphor for the prevailing struggle of moving forward, embracing social practices and new technology, and preserving current practices. Through this identified struggle, questions arise about the importance of the child in the home and the child’s influence on the structure of marriage, the sep...

... middle of paper ...

...timately is that they go “Away from the machine. In the garden” (Ruhl 141). Mr. and Mrs. Givings must actually leave the house, with all its structure and confinement, in order to gain access to their own intimate experience. The characters stimulation and desire to explore and pioneer these intimate concepts is what makes In the Next Room so relatable Catherine and Dr. Givings finally begin to overcome distances and explore each other’s natural and healthy desires to intertwine love and sexuality. The last moment of the play, becomes an enactment of the marriages of comfort, growth, purity, exploration, and intimacy, all ideas opposite in nature but consistent with the plays prevailing theme: the struggle of moving forward to embrace human intimacy, while simultaneously embracing social practices and new technology and preserving current or traditional practice

    More about In the Next Room by Sara Ruhl

      Open Document