A funny, touching and slightly scandalous play that tells the story of a doctor who uses an intriguing little device to treat hysteria patients is set to open in Theater II on Thursday at 8 p.m.
“In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play),” written by American playwright Sarah Rhul, chronicles the early history of one of the first sex toys, the vibrator.
“It’s definitely a quirky show,” Ryan Bernier a theater major who plays Mr. Daldry, the husband of a woman who received the experimental hysteria treatment said. “It was interesting to work on it and try to be adult about it, but at the same time because it is a comedy still find that balance (and) that mature side of the comedy.”
Bijan Barrera, who plays Leo Irving, an artist and the only male patient to suffer from hysteria in the play, said the play is less about sexual comedy than a statement about the time period.
“The first thought in peoples’ minds is ‘Oh, vibrators. Ha ha ha, it’s going to be ridiculous,’” Barrera said. “It’s strictly the medical side of how the vibrator was started, and how the vibrator started was strictly for medical use.”
The play is set in the 1880s when the vibrator was a new concept and used primarily as a medical instrument.
Fanni Green, who has worked at the Yale School of Drama and the Juilliard School, came as a guest director for the play.
Though the title of the play may bring about some giggles, many cast members admit that it isn’t all fun and games.
“There’s a lot that’s involved and it’s very demanding vocally,” Barrera said. “It’s very surprising to people how vocally challenging it is. I’m actually speaking with a British dialect for my character, that was my challenge.”
Barrera worked with Green on word pronunciations and learning the differences in upper and lower class accents. He also practiced some method acting, speaking in a British accent in classes and during the day.
Wearing corsets made of steel bone and strong lacing for four hours at a time, wasn’t easy either.
“Trying to figure out the timing of that between the corset and then the underskirt and then the over skirt and then the top and the hats and veils, just this huge number of things,” Bernier said. “We want to make sure we don’t make it a point to show how much clothing is being worn, but at the same time we kind of do.”
Along with costuming, the production is being kept as authentic as possible. Two dramaturges — or theater research specialists — came in to work on the project and research hysteria and its treatment methods used in the 1880s. “The two vibrators we’re using were built by somebody in the area for another production of this show at American Stage Theatre Company and it’s entirely historically accurate,” Bernier said. “It’s kind of interesting to see and also mildly terrifying because it really gives you a gage of how far we’ve come and also how far we haven’t.”
Students can purchase tickets for $8 in advance or for $10 on the day of the show. General admis- sion runs from $12 to $15. The show is recom- mended for adults only due to mature themes and nudity. The play runs from April 11-13 and 17-20 at 8 p.m., as well as on the 14 and 21 at 3 p.m. Students can visit the School of Theater and Dance’s website for more information and to purchase tickets.
“It has all the elements you could possibly want,” theater major Sigourney Forrester, who plays a nurse, said. “I think it relates to modern society with technology. We depend on it so much that we’re blind.”