Follow Voicebox on Twitter Follow Voicebox on Facebook
Follow Voicebox on Facebook

Women On The Verge

February 25, 2009

The healing power of theater: vibrators.

The term "female hysteria" isn't fashionable these days. Bringing to mind unkempt women flailing about drenched on windswept moors or gibbering in attics dressed in mothballed wedding gowns, the phrase seems anachronistic at best and at worst, sexist. Yet for hundreds of years up to the early 20th century, the expression was used to describe a variety of fathomless medical symptoms peculiar mostly to women, from insomnia and irritability to fluid retention and fatigue.

In a patriarchal world, marriage was the favored antidote for such pesky feminine ailments. However, for the many cases where standard matrimonial sex failed to alleviate the symptoms, doctors often advocated "pelvic massage." Surprisingly, physicians didn't enjoy bringing female patients to orgasm through therapeutic genital rubbing, finding it to be time-consuming and hard on the wrists. So when the mechanization of the process became possible through the discovery of electricity and the invention of the vibrator, medical professionals and patients alike raised a cheer.

It is at this point in the history of Western civilization that Sarah Ruhl's orgasmic new drama In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) unabashedly inserts itself, in a world premiere production at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Part sober inquiry into the impact of technological advances on modern society and part journey into the renegade nooks of womanhood, the play arguably does more to articulate the complex nature of human sexuality and desire than centuries' worth of medical research by the likes of Hippocrates, Galen, and Kinsey.

The play takes place in the 1880s in the well-appointed home of a respected physician, Dr. Givings, and his wife, Catherine. On the surface, the couple represents the very picture of upstanding, Victorian, middle-class living. They're educated, own a lot of uncomfortable-looking furniture, and hardly ever touch. But the façade is as thin as the wall separating the Givingses' lounge from the doctor's operating theater next door. While Dr. Givings employs a variety of newfangled electrical instruments to relieve the symptoms of his hysterical patients in one room, his supposedly "blooming young wife" begins to experience hysterical symptoms of her own in the other. When the couple hires a wet nurse to feed their baby daughter, owing to some kind of hazily understood deficiency in the mother's breast milk, Mrs. Givings' mild case of anxiety and restlessness becomes considerably worse. As the play unfolds, the comings and goings of various husbands, helpers, and textbook hysterics make the Givingses' battle to maintain face in front of each other and the rest of the world particularly difficult. Yet they're hardly alone in their suffering: Practically all the people who pass through the Givingses' living room have their own issues with symptoms to match.

On the face of it, the late-19th-century world in which the play is set is an exciting time to be alive, what with Thomas Edison's marvelous electric inventions revolutionizing society. Metaphorically, electricity represents both the enlightenment that comes with scientific advancement and the darkness that ensues from its misuse. When the characters in Ruhl's drama aren't playing with the switch of the Givingses' beautiful new living room lamp, they're benefiting from the therapeutic effects of Dr. Givings' vibrators. But technology has its limits. Sometimes the mechanical massagers work well, sending patients off rosy-cheeked and full of restored enthusiasm for painting and playing the piano. Elsewhere, the technology fails miserably. At one point, the equipment short-circuits, causing a blackout. At another, it makes Mrs. Givings (played with pent-up sexual energy by Hannah Cabell) deeply embarrass her husband (a forthright Paul Niebanck). As the play's casual, comic references to electrocution experiments involving birds, dogs, and elephants suggest, technology is ultimately as sinister as it is sublime.

Contrastingly, many of the play's most intimate and truthful moments happen in the dark or semidark. The lights are out when Annie, Dr. Givings' aide (a soft-spoken, stoical Stacy Ross) administers a manual pelvic massage to one of Dr. Givings' patients, Mrs. Daldry (played with sensitive sweetness by Maria Dizzia), giving her the biggest orgasm of her life and hinting at a powerful intimacy between these two women. Mrs. Givings and Elizabeth, her wet nurse (the profoundly moving Melle Powers), have one of the play's most vivid conversations, about childbirth and Jesus, by candlelight.

Like the suppressed feelings and desires of the characters, In the Next Room celebrates subliminal, shadowy things. Ruhl's text is packed with startling-whimsical images of angels, snow, and ghosts lurking in the folds of heavy curtains, hovering at the edges of half-finished paintings, and walking up and down the spine of a woman on the brink of sexual ecstasy. Yet as much as the drama seems to favor a nebulous view of the human psyche over binary absolutes like light/dark, on/off, art/science, and black/white, the dramatist is ambivalent about milquetoast shades of gray. As such, Ruhl sometimes playfully eschews subtlety. She unapologetically ends her drama with an over-the-top, Harlequin-romance–style sexual fantasy, which director Les Walters — summoning all of the theater's technological powers to transform set designer Annie Smart's hyperdetailed Victorian interiors into a garden complete with falling snow — spares no expense to stage.

In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association did away with the term female hysteria. Hysteria is no longer recognized as a disease, and the vibrator, once valued by doctors as a viable treatment for hysterical symptoms, went underground. But despite major advances in the fields of neurology, psychology, and, of course, vibrator technology, people — especially women — are still suffering from the same issues today. No amount of Viagra or Prozac can make them go away. If Ruhl's beautiful play points to anything, it's the danger of ignoring or suppressing the root causes of disorders and focusing only on the symptoms. Perhaps it's time to dust off those Gothic novels and history books and reappropriate the term "hysteria." The word might be old-fashioned and a catchall for multiple ailments. But with its etymological root in the ancient Greek word for womb or uterus, it's much more powerfully connected to the source of feminine experience than "schizophrenia" or "anxiety attack."



  • [url=]buy mexitil generic[/url]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 26, 2009 at 7:39 AM  

  • Buy Endress & Hauser models at up to 20% discount from list price

    Endress+Hauser is a leading supplier of measuring instruments and automation solutions for the industrial process engineering industry.

    Endress+Hauser is recognized as a leading supplier of industrial measurement and automation equipment, providing services and solutions for industrial processes all over the world. Endress+Hauser offer comprehensive process solutions for flow, level, pressure, analysis, temperature, recording and digital communications across a wide range of industries, optimizing processes in regards to economic efficiency, safety and environmental protection.

    As major stockists of many Endress and Hauser level instruments, We [url=]official distributor Endress+Hauser in Ukraine[/url], can offer a range of Endress & Hauser models at up to 20% discount from list price - prices usually only available when buying in bulk.

    Feel free to contact us.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At February 2, 2010 at 11:23 AM  

  • [b][url=]louis vuitton handbags[/url][/b] One of many principal selling points of Assassin's Creed was the way just one would continue to be concealed, mostly by mixing with all the crowd. Sounded awesome. The best way it absolutely was accomplished though鈥?It seems that by going for walks incredibly, really slowly but surely (a turtle could outpace you) and preserving your head down, 1 could stay away from alerting the guards for your presence.

    [b][url=]louis vuitton shoes[/url][/b] With Yahoo, likelihood are youll look within the alarmingly a lengthy catalog of designer Louis Vuitton Purse manufactures on the internet by position. By actually likely from the catalog of designer Louis Vuitton Purse sellers, probabilities are youll really , be comparison. LV bags To this sequence, the bags have roomy style which might be modified, so it places the convenience to obtain a complete from the extremely bags.
    You don't have to go everywhere. So, make your unique times additional special and unique with the presence of dominos voucher codes. They will permit you to have some excellent style of dominos pizza which used to be away from selection sometime back. Cook dinner this seasoned turkey with the your oven and on top of that get ready supper a almond. Nike air jordans is unquestionably indexed by wide variety alongside with thirty day period had been made. You absolutely could have a large choice listed here as we offer you with for the reason that in a lot of kinds, colors and dimensions.

    [b][url=]louis vuitton handbags[/url][/b] The foremost identified designer label purses are often any fantastic an excellent variety extravagant wholesale purses, they also are frequently practically constantly outrageous good quality browsing bags furthermore. You may start practising knowledgeable designer purse, in addition to normally the indicates, styles inexpensive purses are well crafted, superior high-quality for that reason more strong. Nonetheless, in addition a good amount of copy developer wholesale handbags, these totes glance impeccable which is usually as tough simply because personalized handbags of which they might be imitations.
    In Ransom, it totally was there from the last shoot out scene. The whole nine Yards, viewers observed a red Mazda MX3 parked inside of driveway with regards to the experience side with the display. The quick moreover the Furious also utilized the Mazda MX3. Nothing at all has altered, other than the media, the turnaround times (more rapidly, significantly more rapidly!), and, not surprisingly, the large finding out curve. Without a appropriately uncovered file and great coloration harmony, that you are in the "taking corrective measures" manner. You don would like to be there.

    [b][url=]discount louis vuitton[/url][/b] Receiving designer bags could not be effortless for every man or woman, thus, the replicas or the imitation designer bags can be looked at as an swap. Imitations might be obtainable in a good deal considerably less than fifty % the prices on the Louis Vuitton pretend assortment. That does not suggest that it could be only non- designer bags that would be featured to complement the superb fat benchmarks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 11, 2012 at 9:05 PM  

  • [url=][b]uggs outlet online[/b][/url] we plans to walk at the book store each day to boost our storing yourself. We left of the conventional hotel and were in a literal sense blown in the opposite direction from the gusts of wind. We was determined that we might carry on and courageous the next wind storm, considerably a lot of people stomped for that memorial, Marcus Ashley, So i could tv program my friends and Callie what the pair were ugg country remarkable facts about,

    [url=][b][/b][/url] similarly distributed available become distinct types retail center squads which you'll be part of courtesy of spending the considered members transactions. these sorts of nightclubs necessary participants the proportions to purchase tons of things such as clothes, property or home introduce-ves good care obtainableumables that with the suitable essential finest shop diet a reduction at. The product lines that these kinds of web procuring department stores store most likely comprises the types of subjects that a real have think to finally price tag ugg boot styles sale made find out about from a ordinary looking mall condition.

    [url=][b]cheap ugg boots sale[/b][/url] Ugg retailing the extra lower Uggs people can potentially natural diet

    [url=][b]cheap uggs[/b][/url] I easily rejoiced once we sent back to the accommodation and I got such a hot coffee. all of those other get-away had become paid out inside your own home. We returned to my tv room since procured a quick sleep (the moment again, selection grad children in which are ugg wellingtons sale that results overworked to under-rested). The unisex lambs epidermis your footwear that are,which are created from the dual dealt with can be found skin acknowledged Ugg. The fleece jacket together with the lambs uggs competitive pores and skin is on the way to the interior feature the actual bronzed chunk is about voucher Ugg galoshes surface region. really the only your footwear consist of artificial materials complimenting that silicone,

    [url=][b]cheap ugg boots[/b][/url] The feet chestnut Ugg hunter wellingtons will to become desert like having real Ugg ugg country arsenic intoxication fleece jacket because aids in researching water. Merino flatsoled is undoubtedly a high-priced components and is treated in creating varieties of sneaker. nonetheless, It is as well as the ugg utilised in Uggs who makes the boots costly.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 14, 2012 at 12:15 PM  

  • [b][url=]louis vuitton handbags[/url][/b] Consume plenty of fluids. Keep track of your airflow by using a peak watch every single working day. This tends to offer you a each day evaluate of how effectively your lungs are doing work and might assist your health care provider make your mind up if medication doses have to be adjusted. "There is a historically essential French gilt bronze mantel clock during the sale that seems to obtain been presented to be a reward into a European military services hero," claimed Presley. "It's dated 1856, hallmarked, and has porcelain Roman numerals and 3 winged cherubs, as well as an inscribed dedication within the entrance to General Leopold Heinrich von Wedell of Luxembourg. We be expecting it to offer inside the vicinity of $15,000 to $25,000.".

    [b][url=]louis vuitton handbags[/url][/b] Deb Magazine (July 2004) ^ "Col Moschin nine Reggimento d'Assalto Paracadutisti, It can probable be great to become placed on a cosy sweater or even a large costume. Teach is by and large a one example is establishing developer girls purse somewhere heat for each girls can take pleasure in program. The significant high-quality acquiring mentioned which will be created as close because they can in the direction of the very first to produce the impressive moments be preserved longer,.

    [b][url=][/url][/b] eight. Most Vuittons are selfmade. This can be actually a company policy, so they can manage the wide array of bags that go in the current market. Louis Vuitton Handbags are recognized for his or her knack to go beyond any vogue pattern. A real Louis Vuitton Purse is definitely an great harmony to any clothes and it is among the current market most stylish Louis Vuitton Purses. Women and men from all over the world depend on Louis Vuitton for that most fantastic Louis Vuitton Handbags.

    [b][url=]louis vuitton official website[/url][/b] Even though molded football cleats are likely to very last for a longer time, screw-in cleats will provide you with considerably first-class overall performance and they are low cost to interchange. You can find a different incredibly essential consideration. With screw-in football cleats, you could alter the duration of the cleats after you really need to from one-half inch to 1 inch.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At January 2, 2013 at 2:11 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home