In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)

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In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)
Written by Sarah Ruhl
Date premiered February 5, 2009 (2009-02-05)
Place premiered Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Berkeley, California
Original language English
Genre Comedy
Setting A prosperous spa town outside of New York City. The dawn of the age of electricity, and after the Civil War.

In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) is a play by Sarah Ruhl. It concerns the early history of the vibrator, when doctors used it as a clinical device to bring women to orgasm as treatment for "hysteria." Other themes include Victorian ignorance of female sexual desire, motherhood, breastfeeding, and jealousy.[1] The play was nominated for three 2010 Tony Awards.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

Sabrina Daldry and Catherine Givings are sexually frustrated with their husbands, who creep quietly into their beds at night and only use the missionary position, which they endure but do not enjoy. Both are excited to have their first orgasms with the machine. Mrs. Daldry is content to continue having clinical treatments with the machine and suffer lifeless, boring sex with her own husband. "I am afraid there is very little sympathy between us."[3] Catherine Givings wants more. First Mrs. Givings learns from a visiting artist that orgasms detached from love ultimately are unfulfilling and empty, simply surface, without soul, and similar to sex with prostitutes. Then a lower-class wet nurse, Elizabeth, reveals to Catherine that she may be able to enjoy the same sensations from the machine with her husband, with whom she is frustrated because of his clinical detachment, but still ultimately loves. Catherine first inspires jealousy and passion in her husband, then convinces Dr. Givings - who had earlier observed that "what men do not perceive because their intellect prevents them from seeing would fill a book"[1] - to make naked snow angels with her and discovers the woman on top sex position, allowing her at last sexual satisfaction while the curtain lowers.


The set is divided between two rooms, a parlor and a doctor's office. At the play's climax, the actors step through the imaginary wall dividing the rooms to create the third and final scene, outdoors in the falling snow.


In the Director Presentation Les Waters states the play was inspired by The Technology of Orgasm by Rachel P. Maines.[4] Ruhl cites Maines's book, as well as AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War and A Social History of Wet Nursing in America, as books she was reading when she chose to write the play.[5]


The play premiered at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre on February 5, 2009, under the direction of Les Waters.[6] The Broadway production (presented by Lincoln Center Theater) began previews at the Lyceum Theatre on October 22, 2009[7] and officially opened on November 19.[8] The cast included Laura Benanti, Michael Cerveris, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Maria Dizzia, Thomas Jay Ryan, Wendy Rich Stetson, and Chandler Williams.[9] This production was nominated for three Tony Awards (see "Awards and Nominations" section).

Subsequent productions include:

  • In October and November 2010, the play was produced by The Actors Theatre, directed by Matthew Wiener at Herberger Theatre's Stage West in Phoenix, Arizona. The cast stars Francis Jue as Dr. Givings and Angelica Howland as Mrs. Givings.[10][11]
  • In March–April 2011, the play had its Australian premiere by the Sydney Theatre Company, directed by Pamela Rabe in the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House. The production, starring Jacqueline McKenzie, subsequently transferred to Melbourne Theatre Company, and was nominated for several Green Room Awards, including Best Director (Rabe), Best Female Actor (McKenzie), and Best Production.[12]
  • In July–August 2011, the play was produced by A Contemporary Theater (ACT) in Seattle, WA, directed by Kurt Beattie.[13]
  • In September–October 2011, the play was produced by the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket (TWN), directed by Anne Breeding, and by the Playmaker's Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, NC,[14] directed by Vivienne Benesch.
  • I n late 2011, the play was produced by Plan 9 in Larco Theatre in Lima, Peru, directed by David Carrillo.
  • In December 2011, the play was produced by the Pasadena City College Theater Dept. in Pasadena, California.
  • In February 2012, the play was produced by the University of Iowa Theater Department in Iowa City, Iowa.
  • In March–April 2012, Auckland Theatre Company, Auckland, New Zealand, directed by Colin McColl.
  • In June–July 2012, Fortune Theatre, Dunedin, New Zealand, directed by Lara Macgregor.
  • In December 2012, Fullerton College Theater Arts Department in Fullerton, California, directed by Chuck Ketter.[15]
  • In February 2013, the play was produced at The Festival Playhouse by the Kalamazoo College Theater Department, directed by Karen Berthel.[16]
  • In March 2013, the play was produced by the Princeton University Theatre Department, directed by Sarah Hedgecock.[17]
  • In April 2013, the play was produced by the University of South Florida Theatre Department, directed by Fanni Green.[18]
  • In April–May 2013, the play was produced by the Santa Paula Theater Center, directed by James Castle Stevens.[19]
  • In May 2013, the play was produced by the Colonial Players of Annapolis,MD, directed by Carol Youmans
  • In October 2013, the play was produced by the University of the Ozarks Theatre in Clarksville, Arkansas, directed by Bruce Brown.[20] The play was later selected to perform at the Region VI Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival held at the Strand Theatre (Shreveport, Louisiana) on February 27, 2014.
  • In October–November 2013, the play was produced by the Bates College Theatre Department in Lewiston, Maine, directed by Kati Vecsey.[21]
  • From November 2013 to January 2014, a production directed by Laurence Boswell ran in the St. James Theatre, London.[22]
  • In November 2013, the play was produced by University of Southern Indiana Theatre in Evansville, Indiana, directed by Elliot Wasserman.[23]
  • In October 2014, the play was produced by the Hobart Repertory Theatre Society, directed by Steven Jones, in Tasmania, Australia.[24]
  • In December 2015, the play was produced by the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire theatre department, directed by Dr. Jennifer Chapman, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.[25]

Awards and nominations[edit]

2010 Tony Award nominations[edit]

The play garnered several 2010 Tony Award nominations:[2]


  1. ^ a b Hurwitt, Robert (6 February 2009). "Theater review: 'In the Next Room'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Who's Nominated?". Tony Awards. IBM Corp. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  3. ^ Isherwood, Charles (18 February 2009). "A Quaint Treatment for Women Wronged". New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  4. ^ Waters, Les. "Highlights from Les Waters Director Presentation for In the Next Room (January 2009)". Berkeley Rep. Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  5. ^ Sarah Ruhl: 'A Note from Sarah Ruhl', In The Next Room Play Handbill p23
  6. ^ Gold Star: "In the Next Room: World Premiere of Victorian-Era Sex Comedy"
  7. ^ "Lincoln Center Theatre". Lincoln Center Theatre. 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Hetrick, Adam."Ruhl's In the Next Room Will Play Broadway's Lyceum Theatre,", July 9, 2009
  9. ^ Gans, Andrew."Benanti and Cerveris to Star in Broadway's In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)",, July 21, 2009
  10. ^ "Actors Theatre Opens Season With In the Next Room (Or The Vibrator Play) 10/29-11/4". BroadwayWorld, October 29, 2010
  11. ^ Lengel, Kerry. "10/29-11/14: In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play)". The Arizona Republic, October 24, 2010
  12. ^ Recipients of the 2011 Awards, Green Room Awards
  13. ^ "In the Next Room, or the vibrator play". A Contemporary Theater. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  14. ^ Jeffrey Rossman. "In the Next Room - Hysterical "Hysteria" at PlayMakers' 2011-12 Opener". CNVC Online Arts Journal. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  15. ^ "Events Calendar". Fullerton College. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  16. ^ "In the Next Room, or the vibrator play". Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  17. ^ "In the Next Room, or the vibrator play". Lewis centre, Princeton Theatre. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  18. ^ "Senior thesis project to present 'In the Next Room, or the vibrator play'". Princeton University. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  19. ^ "In The Next Room (or the Vibrator Play)". Santa Paula Theater Center. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  20. ^ "University Theatre shines at state festival". University of the Ozarks. 29 October 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  21. ^ Vanderburgh, Barbara (16 October 2013). "Love’s true meaning is subject of ‘In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)'". Bates College. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  22. ^ Mountford, Fiona (22 November 2013). "In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play, St James Theatre - theatre review". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  23. ^ Angela Torres. "USI Theatre presents Tony Award-winning comedy "In the Next Room"". University of Southern Indiana. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  24. ^ Jack White. "Hobart Rep presents Tony Award-winning comedy "In the Next Room"". Hobart Repertory Theatre Society. Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  25. ^ "UWEC Theatre brochure" (PDF). University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Retrieved 8 December 2015. 

External links[edit]