Black Swan State Theatre Company presents ‘In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play’: a sassy play about power and passion by Sarah Ruhl who re-imagines the curious chapter in the early history of psychotherapy, when women were treated with a certain mechanical device to alleviate “hysteria”. Nominated for three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, this play has already proven its worth and this production is guaranteed to hit the spot!
Set in the 1880s, just after the advent of electricity, ‘In the Next Room’ takes place in the adjoining parlour and consulting room of Dr Givings. Stuart Halusz delivers an amusingly brusque portrayal of the doctor who is more interested in his patients than his wife Catherine, expertly played by Rebecca Davis. Davis delivers a beautifully measured performance and captures the nuances of this eclectic character who is struggling with motherhood. Halusz and Davis are a married couple yet they still create a marvellous chemistry between them, which is only worth mentioning because many couples fail to have onstage/onscreen chemistry.
Likewise, Jo Morris as Sabrina Daldry skilfully delivers a remarkable performance that blends comedic and dramatic moments with ease, and the best orgasm acting since Meg Ryan in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ – perhaps better!!! It is a joy to see well-respected actor Kingsley Judd mark his Black Swan Theatre Company debut as Mr Daldry. Although a minor role, Judd embodies the character of the austere patriarch which beautifully ties in with Mrs Daldry’s supposed health problems. Tariro Mavondo also making her debut with the company as Elizabeth conveys an understated performance that packs a punch. The monologue about the death of her baby is heartbreaking. Tom Stokes’ (another fresh face to Black Swan) assured performance as Leo Irving flawlessly captures the flamboyant and troubled artist. Lastly, Alison van Reeken is the consummate professional whose modest performance matches the discreet character of Annie who assists the doctor with his work.
Director Jeffrey Jay Fowler has assembled an outstanding cast of actors and creatives to deliver one of the best shows of the year. The play is beautifully realised, striking the perfect balance of comedy and drama: giving the actors an opportunity to portray nuanced and comprehensive characters, from moments of precision comic timing to moments that are heart-wrenchingly emotional.
It must be noted, however, that the director, actors and creatives have a fantastic script to work with. Alicia Clements’ stunning set design allows the audience to focus on both rooms of the house at the same time without missing any of the action in either space. Furthermore, Lucy Birkinshaw’s lighting design is subtle and affective, while Ash Gibson Greig’s sound design is delightfully quirky and playful.
Playing until the 4 November 2018 at the Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre, Perth.
Photo credits Philip Gostelow