‘In the Next Room or the vibrator play’ premieres March 2 at SBCC

Ellen+Humphrey+and+Blake+Benlan+rehearse+one+of+their+scenes+in+the+play+%E2%80%98in+the+Next+Room+or+the+vibrator+play%E2%80%99+on+Thursday%2C+Feb.+25%2C+in+the+Garvin+Theatre.+The+play+will+open+on+Friday%2C+March+2.

Ryan Cullom

Ellen Humphrey and Blake Benlan rehearse one of their scenes in the play ‘In the Next Room or the vibrator play’ on Thursday, Feb. 25, in the Garvin Theatre. The play will open on Friday, March 2.

MEGAN TONTI, Arts and Entertainment Editor

The Theatre Group at City College will be putting on the production, “In the Next Room or the vibrator play,” premiering Wednesday, March 2, in the Garvin Theatre.

The story is set during 1886 around a time in the Victorian age when women, and sometimes men, were treated for the medical condition once known as “hysteria.” In this case Dr. Givings, played by Joshua Daniel Hershfield, would treat women with a vibrator in his office adjacent to his family’s home.

“When electricity came out, one of the first appliances that was electrified was the vibrator,” Director Rick Mokler said. “But what they didn’t do is associate it at all with sex. It was assumed that women had no sex drive, or sexual responsiveness.”

Hysteria was a medical condition that was diagnosed if a woman was depressed or angry.

“In that time period, whenever there was anything wrong with women at all, whether they were too tired or they laughed too much, was diagnosed as hysteria,” said Addison Clarke, who plays Mrs. Daldry in the production.

Playwright Sarah Ruhl wrote the show in 2009. Ruhl has written 14 plays, which have been produced all around the United States and internationally.

“I think it’s one of the best plays I have seen or read in the last decade,” Mokler said. “She combines these wonderful moments of poetry with really hilariously funny moments.”

In the next room, his wife Mrs. Givings, played by Ellen Humphreys, fails to produce breast milk and decides to hire a wet nurse named Elizabeth, played by Danah Williams, which leaves the newborn to become increasingly attached to the nurse. As this is happening, Mrs. Givings is starting to feel abandoned and lonely.

“The major conflict of her life is that she is unable to breastfeed her own child,” Humphreys said. “The one thing she’s supposed to do in her whole life, from being married and having her own child, she has been unable to do. She’s realized she’s had to reevaluate her whole purpose because she can’t feed her own baby.”

On the other hand, Mrs. Daldry and her husband Mr. Daldry, played by Paul Canter, go to Dr. Givings because she is “hysterical.”

While the cast is mainly made up of individuals in the Santa Barbara community and beyond, Blake Benlan is the only City College student with a role in the production.

Benlan plays the role of Leo Irving, an artist who goes to Dr. Givings because he is depressed over his abrupt break up with his ex-fiancé as he was announcing their engagement to his family.

“He does a really nice job with organizing words in an interesting way,” said Mokler. “He has that wonderful voice and it lends himself beautifully to the character.”

“Because it’s so Victorian, it’s in many ways prudish,” Mokler said. “There’s no language and everyone’s full dressed. It’s very old fashioned, yet very modern and contemporary.”

For show times and ticket prices see the Theatre Group’s box office page here.