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Free Review: The Vibrator Play Essay Sample

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On April 1, 2012, the StageWest Theatre Company concluded its run of Sarah Ruhl’s quirky stage production entitled “In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play.” On the surface, the play functions as a smart, witty comedy set in the prim-and-proper sex-repressed Victorian Era. The plot revolves around the latest therapeutic device that Dr. Givings uses to treat his “hysteric” female patients and the influences it has on both Dr. Givings professional and personal life. On a deeper level, however, the play serves as an insightful lighthearted satire that considers notions of femaleness and the roles of women amongst a changing cultural landscape.

As Mrs. Givings becomes increasingly curious about her husband’s new method of therapy, and the doctor’s patients compare experiences with the new treatment, the play’s social commentary about sexual exploration and societal convention becomes clear. As the play’s characters struggle with their curiosities and the lack of knowledge about sexual gratification constantly fumbling as they weave uncomfortably – and sometimes naively – in and out of sexual conversation, the audience is able to enjoy a series of lighthearted laughs. Careful observers, however, will recognize and appreciate the play’s deeper messages.

The play’s purpose is not simply to satirize the Victorians’ lack of knowledge or comfortability with sexual health; it rather compels us to consider the value of uncharted excitement waiting to be discovered in a world where desensitization, a lack of censorship, and instant gratification have made it nearly impossible for us to discover sexual pleasure with the same genuine novelty and excitement that the play’s characters imbue. Furthermore, Ruhl’s satirical representation of her patient’s maladies and cures makes a statement about the importance of sex in a woman’s life – the feminist undertones of which compel us to consider the notions of women’s roles in sex both in the past as well as the present. The performers’ ability to act genuinely naïve in a world where nothing is sacred works to emphasize the importance of the discovery in both the play’s social and sexual contexts. 

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