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Episode #3 -- In Which We Share the Show With the General Public...

posted by Stacy Ross on Tue, Feb 17, 2009
in Backstage buzz

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well --

we rehearsed
we previewed
we opened.

previews included the excitement of having Sarah back in town --
and small tweaks (and occasionally the addition of a whole monologue) in the script,
as well as the usual additions of costume, lights, and sound:
creative elements that help create the world,
but also add the necessary strictures of timing and spacing for an actor
(not that we don't have very certain ideas of both while rehearsing,
but getting into the actual space, time, sound and feel of the thing as a whole always demands adjustments --
and patience...on everyone's part...).

"do i turn the light off here?"

"how long is this piece of music?"

"which door did you want me to go out of?"

"you can't HEAR me?"
(there is a very specific distress in being told you're just not loud enough, when you've been sure that's the least of your worries...)

okay, and that's the usual stuff --
every tech rehearsal/production holds some mixture of the aforementioned --
but then there are the curveballs...

maria plays the piano!
and has paroxysms...

paul gives paroxysms...

and joaquín gets - - -

well if ya haven't seen the play, i really should let you see for yourself.

so, sometimes productions have that little extra something
that you're sure you can handle,
but still gives you that slightly (or hugely) abnormal hurdle
that you have to negotiate -- 
first in rehearsal
then in tech
next, with the first audience (usually first preview)
once more on opening, just because you know it's going to be in print,
and then...
and then each and every performance.

this play affords me the unusual -- and oddly stressful, at first -- opportunity
to help my fellow actors in, and as often, OUT of their clothing --
which has to happen in a particular span of time -- not too soon
and definitely not too late in the getting-them-clothed-again part --
they've got to get into the next room to continue the story.

as any parent will tell you,
being responsible for getting another person to a certain place at a certain time
is, at times, weighty...
but in this case, with practice, very do-able
and very communicative, one actor to another,
as much as speaking to each other -- though we don't --
and so the character-relationship grows in a way that the actors can certainly gauge...
but does the audience get that?

i dunno --

SHOULD they?

you tell me. :-)

Photo: Me (on the right), dressing Maria.
Photo courtesy of


I thought the subtle but magnificent growth of the characters was delightful to 'be with' -- I can't say 'watch' because the energetics were more powerful than that. We were blown away with the ending -- the beauty of the snow, the set was amazing, and the final connection between them left me in tears. Truly one of the best plays I've seen.

Kay | Wed, Feb 18, 2009

The play had a promising beginning; the premise was good, and fun; the historical background of mores and beliefs, interesting.

The characters were sketchily conceived. Most importantly, Annie, a pivotal character who is supposed to effect the transformation in the last scene, is hard to get a handle on throughout the play. Her character doesn't seem to grow as much as be different people in different scenes. When the wise, insightful words she speaks in the last scene are spoken, we wonder where this woman has been for the last 2 hours. In short, beautiful and poetic as the staging is for the last scene, the developments are not organically connected to the play, and do not grow from it. The final scene seems tacked on; a false note.

Likewise the dialogue is not well written so that in several cases the lines are spoken with unnatural pauses between them and do not flow or connect.

Finally the greatest offense of the play is making sex tedious. The one-note joke going on in the room where the vibrator is administered cannot be sustained for 2 hours. What began as amusing and fresh soon tires and becomes tedious, routine and even tasteless.

The play could easily be halved and improved. This was one of the worst plays I have seen; certainly the only bad play at Berkeley Rep. It is the only play of Susan Ruhl's I have seen.

Sets were great.

Feb. 14th performance

Jane | Wed, Feb 25, 2009

My disappointment with Berkeley Rep has always been play choice. This was true 25 years ago and it's still true. Every production of every play is very good; the set change in the second act was great: the music and timing of the change was essential to the resolution of the play in the time left. The play, however, wasn't much to begin with, the expression of the theme was scattered, and I never much cared about these dismal characters.
You have done some French classics that were thoroughly satisfying, but I just don't come out of your theatre thoughly satisfied very often.

Mary Lou Breiman | Fri, Feb 27, 2009

First, Stacy Ross, you were wonderful in the show! Annie broke my heart.

Secondly, I couldn't disagree with the commenter (Mary Lou Breiman) above more.

What's exciting about Berkeley Rep is the they put on shows like, "In the Next Room (Or the Vibrator Play.)" Work that is fresh, provocative (with a point) and captivating. I left the theater after this show filled with thoughts about what it must have been like to be a woman during that time and how far (and how not that far at all) we've come. I love when theater challenges me and encourages me to open my mind and think differently, this play did just that. It was also hysterically funny! I'd heard about Sarah Ruhl's talent before the show and now I want to consume every word she's written!

Thank you, Berkeley Rep, for pushing the boundaries and keeping us on our toes. Yours is the theater that I most look forward to and I can't wait to see what you do in the future!

lhbeck | Fri, Feb 27, 2009

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