Kitchen Dog Theater, the cutting-edge theater that occupies the MAC, a “space” that serves the dual purpose of art gallery and theater right off McKinney Avenue in the heart of Uptown, has never been one to shy away from controversial subject matter and the kick-off to their 21st season is no exception. Co-Artistic Directors Tina Parker and Chris Carlos opened the season with the regional premier of “In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play,” by Sarah Ruhl.
The play’s made quite the name for itself since it opened on Broadway in 2009, not just for the obvious reasons. After it opened the play received three Tony Award nominations and was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The plot revolves around a doctor who has developed a medical device that he uses to pacify “hysterical” women, a legitimate medical term that is, thankfully, a remnant of the past. The title of the play gives away the device and yes, if you’re thinking the play might be bit sexual, you are correct, and that’s putting it mildly. But the simple-minded “cure” leads to many humorous situations as well as a lot of commentary on the topics of love, the relationship between a man and a woman, and the feelings a mother feels toward her child.
Although obviously fairly medieval in his medical practices (weird to think this kind of thing was going on just 100 years ago), Max Hartman (KDT Company Member) in the role of Dr. Givings, manages to play his character as genuinely innocent of the mental consequences of his invention. Martha Harms (yet another company member) as his wife is full of youthful vigor. She’s instantly likeable as the woman who discovers the true nature of the “invention” and what it means to herself, her husband and the repressed female (and male) characters in the early 20th century world Ruhl has created.
Austin Tindle and Catherine Dubord lend their own brand of humor and energy as supporting characters and patients whom can’t seem to tear themselves away from Dr. Givings and his wife once they come in for their “treatment.”
Jonathon Taylor’s direction plays up the humor in the plot, but not at the expense of the moral of the play. The beautifully tender final scene brings the play full circle as the characters finally learn what has been missing all along.
Theater-goers won’t be disappointed with this one. It’s funny, it’s sad and it’s altogether enjoyable. “In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play” runs through October 8 at Kitchen Dog Theater. Visit their website for times and ticket information, and get out there! www.kitchendogtheater.org.