‘In the Next Room’ at Port City Playhouse

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Port City Playhouse’s production of Sara Ruhl’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, In the Next Room, is filled with incredible actors, a clever set, and gorgeous Victorian time period outfits (designed by Director Mara Ayala-Bush). Alan Wray is the producer, and also provides the excellent sound design. Jeff Auerbach created the beautiful and very effective lighting.

Mrs. Givings (Madeline Byrd), Leo (Derek Critzer), and Elizabeth (Kadira Coley). Photo by Michael deBlois.
Mrs. Givings (Madeline Byrd), Leo (Derek Critzer), and Elizabeth (Kadira Coley). Photo by Michael deBlois.

The play hilariously and sometimes awkwardly takes on healing women with “hysteria” with vibrators during the Victorian age, but it has a modern feel as it explores sexual repression, and the use of devices versus the need for strong human connection.

A huge kudos to last minute standin, Derek Critzer, who plays Leo Irving. Critzer was originally working behind the scenes as an electrician.  The lead fell ill, and Critzer came in to save the day. His performance is so impressive and convincing, you would never know he had just come in to the show. Critzer energetically embraces the role and adds a nice comic touch.

Becky Patton’s set  is simple, but clever. There are two rooms. One room is the doctor’s office and the other room is the parlor room. The doctor’s office has a desk, a patient’s table, and a shelf with his “equipment.” The parlor room has a parlor table, an armoir, a fireplace, and a tea set.

All six characters are lonely and aching for a meaningful connection: Dr. Givings (Will MacLeod) and his wife, Mrs. Givings (Madeline Byrd); the wife’s wet nurse, Elizabeth (Kadira Coley); a male patient, Leo Irving (Derek Critzer); a female patient, Mrs. Daldry (Alexandra Guyker) and her husband, Mr. Daldry (Cal Whitehurst), and nurse Anne (Kelly L. Moran). Everyone in the cast gives an exceptional performance.

(l to r) Annie (Kelly Moran), Mr. Daldrey (Cal Whitehurst), and Dr. Givings (Will MacLeod). Photo by Michael deBlois.
(l to r) Annie (Kelly Moran), Mr. Daldrey (Cal Whitehurst), and Dr. Givings (Will MacLeod). Photo by Michael deBlois.

MacLeod (Dr. Givings) does a great job being the “straight man” to all the zaniness around him. Coley (the wet nurse), easily conveys her conflicted emotions of taking care of someone else’s baby. Guyker (Mrs. Daldry) authentically showcases her sexual repression and how it is lifted.  Whitehurst (Mr. Daldr)y does a great job showing his bewilderment at trying to understand women. Moran, playing the nurse, strongly supports the doctor in their straightlaced roles as medical professionals. It’a a great ensemble with an abundance of chemistry.

The highlight of the show for me was Madeline Byrd’s performance as Mrs. Givings. She is the moral center of the play, and Byrd received many laughs for her desperate attempts at connection. I loved her facial expressions and her character’s ability to say what everyone else is thinking. I also enjoyed the female actresses always returning to a scene in new gorgeous Victorian outfits designed by Mary Ayala-Bush.

I don’t want to give anymore of the story away, but suffice to say that if you are looking for a laugh-out-loud play that is also thought-provoking, then Port City Playhouse’s exceptional production of In the Next Room is a Must See!

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

In the Next Room plays through November 22, 2014 at Port City Playhouse – 1819 North  Quaker Lane, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, purchase them at the box office beginning an hour before the performance, or purchase them online.