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1097-7578-in_the_next_room_or_the_vibrator_play__l_r_natalie_casey_and_flora_montgomery__c_johan_persson__4_The invention of electrical stimulation forms the basis of a joyously witty and emotionally resonant period drama from Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award nominee Sarah Ruhl

When researching the history of women’s embroidery, author Rachel P. Maines was astonished to find late-19th-century magazines carrying advertisements for vibrators alongside sewing machines and other household appliances. Even more peculiar, the invention was a great relief to doctors, who had been treating patients with “hysteria” by manually producing “paroxysms”; the vibrator was considered a scientific tool rather than an aid to pleasure, but was nevertheless a welcome time-saving device.

That the Victorian age of invention could be plagued with such dubious theories and baffling innocence when it came to (particularly female) sexuality might beggar belief, but it makes for rich thematic drama in American playwright Sarah Ruhl’s hit show In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play. The juxtaposition of blinkered science and instinctive feeling is embodied by Dr Givings and his wife Catherine, the one geekily enthralled by Edison’s experiments, the other gradually unravelling, unnoticed, as she yearns for meaningful connection.

Read my full One Stop Arts review here

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