On the surface, Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Sarah Ruhl's smart and witty comedy In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play), opening Friday at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center, is about the inadvertent invention of the vibrator. But at its heart, the play explores the mistreatment of women in the late 19th Century and how men of the era subjugated women to their dubious methods while ignoring the obvious. Doctor Givings treats his female patients for their supposed hysteria with a newfangled electric-powered contraption. But the device unknowingly produces, shall we say, different results. Soon, Mrs. Daldry is taken to the good doctor for a visit. Sexually frustrated and stuck in a marriage where she endures her husband's clunky, missionary-position-only love-making, she too is diagnosed with "hysteria" and is treated with the supposedly revolutionary therapy. Insightful, engaging, and based on real documented cases of the era, In the Next Room is a hilarious exploration of the cluelessness of men and the sexual liberation of women.
Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Jan. 27. Continues through Feb. 12, 2012