UI theater production creates a buzz


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In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) tells the story of how the buzzing bedroom apparatus was first employed in 19th-century medical-exam rooms.

The play, nominated for three Tony Awards in 2010, will open as a University of Iowa Theatres Mainstage Production at 8 p.m. Friday. Performances will continue at that time Saturday and Feb. 16-18 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 12 and 19 in the Theatre Building's Mabie Theatre. Tickets are available at the Hancher Box Office; admission is $17 for general public, $5 for UI students, $12 for senior citizens, and $10 for youths.

The play takes place at the end of the 19th century, at the dawn of harnessed electricity, said dramaturge Jenni Page-White. It centers on two characters, Dr. Givings, who uses a radical new way to treat women for "hysteria," and his wife, Catherine Givings, who tends to the couple's home.

Their home and his office are separated by a thin wall, and much of the play deals with the two of them coming to an understanding about each other.

The vibrator was one of the first small appliances to be electrified, and it is the tool Dr. Givings uses to "heal" patients such as Sabrina Daldry (Amelia Peacock)."It was thought to release pent-up fluids in a woman's womb," Peacock said. "[My character] receives his treatments and ends up wanting much more."

In The Next Room is one of the most-produced plays across the country this year, Page-White said. Its popularity can undoubtedly be attributed its humor. But also because, she said, even though the play is set at the turn of the 20th century, it raises provocative questions about sex-role expectations today and where they come from.

"What drew me on a more personal level was the story of the relationships in the play," Peacock said. "Women feel alone and disconnected from their lives and their husbands. They want love and closer relationships, which really rings true in our modern society."

Husband and wife Kurt and Michelle Smith play husband and wife Dr. Givings and Catherine Givings in the production. They, too, were initially drawn to the play because they can relate to the themes.

"It deals with relationships, and this other facet, the vibrator," Kurt Smith said. "But it deals with relationships and how technology gets in the way. A problem we are always dealing with today — it's like texting rather than talking to someone in person."

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