"In the Next Room:The Vibrator Play" at the Jungle Theater.

In Sarah Ruhl’s popular play, the vibrator is more than just a dramatic device.

Photo by Drew Trampe
Sure Cure — Christina Baldwin plays a woman who gets a novel treatment for “hysteria.”

Sarah Ruhl is one of the most exciting and adventurous playwrights around, and her latest, In the Next Room—subtitled The Vibrator Play—opens this month at the Jungle Theater. Set in the 1880s, it concerns a doctor who treats two housewives for “hysteria” by using a newly invented machine, the vibrator, to stimulate orgasms. Ruhl uses this “device” as not only a metaphor for the liberation of women, but of men as well.

Director Sarah Rasmussen, who assistant directed the Broadway production, helms the area premiere. “I’ve long been a huge fan of Sarah Ruhl, and to sit next to her as she did rewrites was insightful and amazing.” Though California-based, Rasmussen is familiar to local audiences from multiple gigs at both Mixed Blood Theatre and the Playwrights’ Center. “I adore working in Minneapolis,” the South Dakota native says. “These are my favorite actors anywhere in the country.”

Though set in the 19th century, In the Next Room could hardly be more timely. “There’s a lot going on politically that gives the play a contemporary relevance,” Rasmussen says, “but it’s really a comedy of manners. It makes fun of outdated attitudes but never makes fun of the characters.”

Despite the titillating subject matter, she insists that Ruhl is “bringing theater back to its roots in the musicality of language. The play is transformative as she turns the lens back on us,” says Rasmussen, which raises provocative questions about how human beings connect emotionally and physically. Nov. 2–Dec. 16. Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-822-7063,