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Broadway is buzzing about Berkeley Rep's Vibrator (and I'm still thinking 'bout those brownies)

posted by Terence Keane on Fri, Nov 20, 2009
in News

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On the Next Bus

Once again, the national media is buzzing about a play born at Berkeley Rep. Last night our associate artistic director, Les Waters, opened In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) at Broadway's Lyceum Theater. Berkeley Rep commissioned this script from MacArthur genius Sarah Ruhl and staged its world premiere earlier this year. Now Lincoln Center Theater has given it new life in New York, where both Sarah and Les are making their Broadway debuts.

This is the fourth show that Berkeley Rep has helped send to Broadway in the last four years. (One of them – Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking – is still running only a few blocks away!) The reviews for In the Next Room are out – and I'm proud to share the good vibrations. Here is a quote from the great review in the New York Times:

"INSPIRED... In the Next Room is a true novelty: a sex comedy designed not for sniggering teenage boys – or grown men who wish they were still sniggering teenage boys – but for adults with open hearts and minds... The ideas underpinning the play, about the fundamental lack of sympathy between men and women of the period, and the dubious scientific theories that sometimes reinforced women’s subjugation, are serious. In the Next Room illuminates with a light touch – a soft, flickering light rather than a moralizing glare – how much control men had over women’s lives, bodies and thoughts, even their most intimate sensations. [It] is directed by Les Waters with a fine sensitivity to its varied textures. Insightful, fresh and funny, the play is as rich in thought as it is in feeling."

Maria To read all the wonderful reviews, check out the press release I sent this morning. Or you can take a stroll down "Hysteria Lane" with Maria Dizzia, the woman who originated the role of Mrs. Daldry on our stage and is now reprising it on Broadway. (She also played the title role in our Berkeley and off-Broadway productions of Eurydice.) The Times posted a slideshow of In the Next Room alongside its review that features charming commentary from Maria.

While I didn't get to see the opening last night, I did drop by the Lyceum when I was in New York last month. It was the first tech rehearsal, and the theater was humming with activity. Maria was getting acquainted with her wig, while Thomas Jay Ryan (who appeared in our American premiere of TRAGEDY: a tragedy) familiarized himself with the numerous layers of his Victorian costume. Other actors tested out the many doors and switches on the set as the prop master debated which items belonged on Dr. Givings' bookshelves with technicians scurrying around her making last-minute adjustments. Good-natured jokes were flying, even as the stage manager tried to round everyone up over the loudspeaker.

Amidst this chaos, I stood chatting with Les and his assistant director. The unassuming Sarah Ruhl wandered up with a plate of brownies and offered one to each of us. "My daughter and I were baking last night," she said, as if preparing for your Broadway debut were the most ordinary thing in the world.

The brownies were delicious, a delightfully homey touch in the aisle of that palatial theatre. As Sarah walked away, I turned to Les and joked, "You know, Eugene O'Neill was known for his brownies during tech." And Les, without missing a beat, replied with his usual deadpan, British wit: "Yes, and Edward Albee for his fried chicken." 

Congratulations, Les. When you get back to Berkeley, I'll take you over to Bakesale Betty's for one of her famous sandwiches. I know Albee's got plenty of Pulitzers, but we both know the best place to get some fried chicken. Until then, keep 'em shaking in Manhattan.

PHOTOS:
On the Next Bus: an ad for
In the Next Room drives through Manhattan (Photo by Sarah Ruhl); Maria Dizzia as Mrs. Daldry (NY Times photo by Sara Krulwich)

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