(Doing our best to bring you John Simon reviews of plays he actually liked, this article appeared on Bloomberg, Nov. 20.)

Ruhl’s Flighty ‘Vibrator Play’ Lives Up to the Buzz: John Simon

Wonders will never cease. Sarah Ruhl, whose previous work I execrated, has written a smart, charming, iridescently funny-serious jewel, “In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play.”

Presented on Broadway by Lincoln Center Theater, it is about American women at “the dawn of the age of electricity” (circa 1880) achieving sexual emancipation thanks to the vibrator.

The device was prescribed for “hysterical” women — more rarely men — and applied discreetly to the private parts of undergarmented patients. The doctor would, with his fancy gizmo, reach under a pristine sheet and administer three to five minutes of electrifying vibration, at the end of which women in paroxysm would achieve something transcendent, for which they had no name let alone full understanding.

We get the story of Dr. and Mrs. Catherine Givings in “perhaps Saratoga Springs,” who have a very Victorian marriage and an infant daughter, Lotty. Catherine, mortified, cannot provide sufficient maternal milk; a wet nurse is required.

One of Dr. Givings’s patients is Mrs. Sabrina Daldry, whose hysteria is quite pronounced, but whose vibrator-induced orgasms are even more pronounced, what with earthquake-like paroxysms and eloquent outcries.

Sizable Contraption

Catherine, her inquisitive ear applied to the door of her husband’s “operating theater,” listens with intensely increasing excitement. The vibrator, by the way, is a sizable as well as irresistible contraption.

Profiting from a rare absence of both the doctor and Annie, his midwife assistant, the two ladies penetrate the inner sanctum and tumble onto the illicit but paradisiac ecstasies the mutually applied vibrator provides. Their prudish, unfulfilling marital relations forgotten, a brave new world intoxicates them.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=aOXKrBrOlXFc

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