creatures and vibrators

Friday night took us to the closing weekend of Heidi Schreck’s Creature and saturday afternoon to opening weekend of Sarah Ruhl’s In The Next Room or the vibrator play. fascinating juxtaposition. Both plays are about women’s awakening, the former spiritual the latter sexual. Both plays are set in gently fantastic imaginings of the past. Both plays are well-written and expertly realized.  Schreck is early-career and Ruhl is more mid-career, she writes with slightly more assurance and a lighter comic touch which is impressive.  CREATURE was a great show that still had the earmarks of downtown, i enjoyed it and am looking forward to seeing Schreck mature as a writer to the point where Ruhl has with vibrator play – her most accessible and commercial show to date.

The critical catchphrase for the vibrator play that comes to mind is “Slyly subversive.” Years of study of sex-positivity and downtown theater have pretty much inured me to overt explorations of sexuality. But Ruhl’s light touch and intelligence bring an entirely new perspective to issues of women’s empowerment and self-discovery. We’ve come a long way since Fefu and Her Friends! My only lingering disappointment is one scene where the african-american nursemaid explains to the seemingly clueless bourgeois white women that the sensation that they feel with their “paroxysms” is something that might be felt between a man and wife. The delivery of carnal, human, earthy truths from a member of the working class – and a woman of color – feels a little but condescending; a little bit more exploitation of the Mammy Myth. But that’s a small criticism for what is overwhelmingly a wonderful play. AndRuhl’s stunning, surreal ending is amazing. Anyway- two big thumbs up for this substantive Broadway fare, a feelgood hit just in time for the holidays.

The review in the New Yorker is here.

The review in the Times is here.

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