Actors’ New Play is “Hysterical”

"In The Next Room" is at Actors through Feb. 18

If you go to the Actors Theatre production of “In the Next Room,” be prepared to snicker.

You will snicker because the subject matter of the play in the Pamela Brown Auditorium is female orgasm. And the joke is how the topic was treated medically in the 19th century.

After laughing hysterically (ha ha) for the entire production, I had to go home and look up what Wikipedia had to say about “female hysteria.”  And it turns out that it was considered a medical diagnosis back in the day, something women went to the doctor to be treated for. These days, the same thing is treated by most women with a trip to an Adam and Eve store and regular use of a vibrator stored in their nightstand. But remember, the play was set in a time when electricity was a new thing, and doctors treated patients like this:

Since ancient times women considered to be suffering from hysteria would sometimes undergo “pelvic massage” — manual stimulation of the genitals by the doctor until the patient experienced “hysterical paroxysm” (orgasm).

So you can imagine the snickers in the theater as a “doctor” administered treatments in his office using a vibrator — a device powered by an electrical cord plugged into a wall. The doctor’s wife, often in the next room, becomes extremely curious about her husband’s activities, especially when a patient, Mrs. Daldry, climaxes on his treatment table.

It is, of course, much more that a one-joke play, as the characters experience a wide range of emotions. But you’re likely to leave snickering about the way this “female hysteria” treatment was administered. And, once, to a man.

“In the Next Room” will be a Actors through Feb. 18.. Check here for showtimes and tickets.