The Vibrator Play: Power to the Passions

L'habitació del costat (In the Next Room)

This pitch-perfect Catalan production captures the comedy and charm of Sarah Ruhl’s provocative play In the Next Room / L’habitació del costat. Set in America in the late 19th century, at the time of Thomas Edison’s invention of electrical lighting, the pioneering Dr. Givings receives female patients complaining of ‘hysteria’, to whom he applies a recent invention as treatment: a vibrator.
Written in 2009, Ruhl’s Tony-nominated play touches on many themes, among them gender relations, science and nature, and the public and private worlds, which in the Victorian era were starkly divided with much hypocrisy in the gap between.
In this production, directed by Julio Manrique, the casting is inspired: Mrs. Givings (Carlota Ocina) is a lively, garrulous figure to Dr. Givings’ (Ivan Benet) buttoned up sobriety – but the spark between them is evident. Less so that between his patient, the nervy Mrs. Daldry (Mireia Aixalà) and her pompous wet fish of a husband (Xavi Ricart). Add to this mix the more ‘modern’ figures: the doctor’s assistant Annie (Alba Florejachs), an outcast in this corseted world, and Elizabeth (Adeline Flaun), a servant whose morality and gentility spotlight the immaturity of her employers, as well as the tragic constraints of her own life. Then there is arguably the most contemporary figure of them all: the artist Leo (Pol Lopez), whose apparent adventurous spirit barely conceals a somewhat unscrupulous egotism.
Thomas Edison is credited with the development of many devices in electric power generation and mass communication, most of which are now being blamed for an insomnia epidemic. In Ruhl’s topical and moving play, the expectations of a society on the brink of a tremendous transformation – that which led, a century on, to the digital revolution – are summed up in the words of Catherine Givings (to paraphrase): ‘On, off, on, off… we shall be like gods!’ For this dawning of an age of a desire for instant gratification also serves to highlight what has remained in the dark ages: compassion and emotion, human responses that cannot be satisfied by science.


L’habitació del costat
La Villarroel – Barcelona
until 3rd February 2019
in Catalan
#L’HabitacioDelCostat @La_Villarroel

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