The Scarlet

The Vibrator Play: A Step Back in Time to Find a Sexual Awakening

Arianna Reyes, Editor-in-Chief

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This past weekend, March 13 through March 17, Clark University’s theatre department put on a production called “In the Next Room” or “The Vibrator Play”. The play was directed by Kathryn Howell, who is from Auburn Massachusetts, and has acted and directed throughout New England and the South West.

Stepping into the Little Center was like stepping back in time. The beautifully designed set by Kevin McGreigle paired with  the lighting designed by Alexander Rakovshik completely transformed the Little Center into a Victorian Age dream. There were beautiful white fabrics in the back of the theatre were memorizing, reflecting the mood and weather created within each scene.

White and light pink fabrics were hanging from the ceiling stretching to the back of the theatre, representing a vagina. All  aspects of the set and lighting created a special atmosphere that perfectly foreshadowed the story of sexual awakening that would take place.

Along with the beautiful set, props were a key piece into tying the entire story together. More specifically, the vibrators, crafted by the props team, which was headed by Marena Koenka.

“It was such a great learning experience to work on a production with so many talented designers and actors,” Koenka (‘21). Through the set, lighting, sound, costumes, hair, and make-up, this play was able to come to life, and it was evident how hard the crew worked to pull this all together.

As the show began, the lights were dimmed and the actor playing the midwife, Annie Miller, played by Jessie Klitus-Flaim, sat at the back of the stage, apparently doing needle point. Ms. Howell introduced the show with excitement as I watched intensely with the rest of the audience as the amazing cast transported us back in time.

The beginning of the play introduced many characters, mainly, Catherine Givings, played by Maddie Thomas, Dr. Joseph Givings, played by Brett Iarrobino, Annie Miller, Sabrina Dauldry, played by Aisling Lynch, Richard Dauldry, played by James Nightengale, Elizabeth Foote, played by Daysha J. Williams, and Leo Irving, played by Nick Sturman. Each character played a key role in aiding the audiences’ time travel, and it was clearly evident that every actor on stage had very much come into the role that they were meant to portray.

The play began with an opening scene introducing Dr. Givings, Mrs. Givings, Annie, Mr. Dauldry, and Mrs. Dauldry. Mrs. Givings is shown with her newborn child while, the Dauldry’s show up to meet her husband Dr. Givings, who specializes in treating women with hysteria. He quickly asks Mrs. Givings to hide herself and their baby in the presence of his new patient, and as he opens the door he quickly asks the couple to step into the “next room”.

Here he explains to the Dauldry’s that Mrs. Dauldry has hysteria and needs treatment right away. Treatment consisted of Mrs. Dauldry coming to the “next room” daily to receive an orgasm from the vibrator that the doctor had invented. These machines were used to treat all of his patients who exhibited signs of hysteria, including one man, Leo Irving.

Each scene that involved Dr. Givings and the vibrators was both extremely riveting and uncomfortable. It was obvious that the patients enjoyed what was occuring, however, Dr. Givings, seemed to become uncomfortable, as soon as, any of those feelings were portrayed as anything more than medical treatment.

Watching these scenes, it became more and more evident that sexuality amongst men and women during this time period was nearly nonexistent, and sexual activity was mostly used for the sole purpose of procreation. Iarrobino portrayed this character wonderfully, you could feel his discomfort, as well as, his coldness toward any sexual feelings involving the machine. He seemed to transform into this character, and all remnants of himself were masked by Dr. Givings character.

Throughout the play, Mrs. Givings was very much attempting to find herself sexually, even pushing her husband to take that journey with her. She befriends Mrs. Dauldry, which the doctor very much disproved of, but the Dauldry’s helped the Givings find their wet nurse, Elizabeth. However, due to the frequency of  Mrs. Dauldry’s treatments, and the sounds that Mrs. Givings heard coming from the “next room”, Mrs. Givings curiosity of her husbands work grows stronger and strong until she finally breaks into the room to try the device on herself.

Mrs. Givings quickly realizes how incredible the machine could make her feel and she wanted to feel that amazing with a person that she loved.  After many failed attempts at trying to find this pleasure with her husband, she attempts to turn to others for this pleasure, but again fails.

The persistence and longing from Mrs. Givings was saddening, as you could really feel how badly she wanted for her husband to go on this journey with her. Thomas portrayed her character extremely well, especially with the many jumps in personality that she had. At first she seemed timid, but she quickly came out of her shell, and decided on her own that she needed to find herself through love and sexuality. Thomas embodied everything that her character was supposed to be, and her ability to portray all of these emotions was riveting.

The play ended with, what I thought was, the most intense scene of the entire play. Mrs. Givings finally convinced her husband to go on this sexual journey with her, and they run out to their garden in the snow. There they begin to take their clothes off, and the scene ends in the two of them both reaching orgasm and the stage going dark.

Overall, the entirety of this play was incredibly intriguing and was executed extremely well. Talking to Iarrobino post-show he told me “Performing in The Vibrator Play was an incredibly enriching experience as an actor. This show challenged me in that it demanded such a stream-of-consciousness mindset; I found myself refusing to get out of character even when I was offstage just because of how consuming my performance needed to be.

Every time we finished a run I felt like I understood something new about the script, and it’s a rare treat to get work with a text like that,” Iarrobino (‘21). Furthering the idea that this play was difficult to it was to become these characters, and how difficult this play was to execute. However, every actor came into their own, and the set was incredibly impressive. The entire time it felt like you were part of the story, and that you were transported back in time. I commend all of the actors and all of the crew on a job well done.

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The Vibrator Play: A Step Back in Time to Find a Sexual Awakening