Cabell, Dizzia, Niebanck Plugged Into Ruhl's Vibrator Play at Berkeley Rep

News   Cabell, Dizzia, Niebanck Plugged Into Ruhl's Vibrator Play at Berkeley Rep Casting has been announced for Berkeley Repertory Theatre's 50th world premiere, Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), directed by Les Waters, who staged her Eurydice to acclaim.

The new comedy about marriage, intimacy — and electricity — was commissioned by Berkeley Rep, which will present the staging in the Roda Theatre Jan. 30-March 15, 2009. Opening is Feb. 4.

The cast will include Hannah Cabell as Catherine Givings, Michael Crane as Leo Irving, Maria Dizzia (who played the title role in Eurydice in Berkeley, New Haven and Off-Broadway) as Sabrina Daldry, Paul Niebanck as Dr. Givings, Melle Powers as Elizabeth, Stacy Ross as Annie and John Leonard Thompson as Mr. Daldry.

"Some may find the title titillating," Waters, associate artistic director of Berkeley Rep, stated, "yet this is a serious work that examines how sexuality and sexual politics affect our lives, how race relations and women's rights influence our society, and how technology is trumpeted as an answer to our ills — even as it repeatedly fails to meet our deepest needs. Sarah achieves all this with the light touch and the elegant comic sense that have brought her national acclaim, and I'm honored to have been a part of her development as an artist."

"I can't think of a better town than Berkeley to premiere a play about the history of the vibrator," Ruhl stated. "Although saying that the play is about vibrators is slightly misleading, because the play at bottom is about marriage, and intimacy, and the mind/body split. Still, I'm fascinated by the fact that the vibrator was a very early invention at the dawn of electricity, right next to kettles and light bulbs. No one thought its use was sexual, because women weren't thought to have sexual pleasure. As soon as we discovered that vibrators caused sexual pleasure for women, we made them illegal. So the play is about that tension between the mind and the body at a time when people were, in a sense, enormously innocent about female sexuality. Now we live in a time when pornography is mainstream, but the connective tissue between the emotions and sexual pleasure is a rarity."

According to Berkeley Rep notes, "In the Next Room illuminates the lives of six lonely people seeking relief from a local doctor — but, despite his expertise with a strange new technology, all they really need is intimacy. It's a tender tale that takes place in the twilight of the Victorian age, a comedy lit by unexpected sparks from the approaching era of electricity, equality, science and sexuality." In the Next Room received the 2008 Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award and is supported by the Bernard Osher Foundation's New Play Development Program, the Mosse Artistic Development Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts.

In addition to this being Berkeley Rep's 50th world premiere, the troupe announced that it has a plan to commission another 50 works by 2013. More than 25 writers have been engaged for the project so far.

Berkeley Rep debuted its first new script in 1968 and went on to earn a national reputation for nurturing writers and developing new work.

In the last five years, Berkeley Rep has invested more than $1 million in new play development.

Ruhl has written numerous award-winning plays, including The Clean House, Dead Man's Cell Phone, Demeter in the City, Eurydice, Late: a cowboy song, Melancholy Play, Orlando and Passion Play: a cycle.

The creative team for In the Next Room includes Annie Smart (scenic design), David Zinn (costume design), Russell H. Champa (lighting design), Bray Poor (sound design) Jonathan Bell (composer) and Michael Suenkel (Berkeley Rep's resident production stage manager).

For more information visit berkeleyrep.org.

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