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Wednesday, June 25,2014

Come as you are

Over the Ledge’s latest explores the dawn of sexual therapy

by Shawn Parker
Over The Ledge Theatre Co. presents a bawdy, deceptively emotional tale of a late 19th century physician that specializes in female maladies, and the complex cast of characters that orbits his practice.

“In the Next Room, or the vibrator play” is a character study wrapped in a sexual comedy. It paints a convincing portrait of a group of conflicted people, forced to confront their sexual and psychological peccadilloes. Starting with the PG-rated shock value of some audibly frank depictions of sexual release, “Next Room” seamlessly segues into a compelling glimpse into the emotional and sexu al realization of a group that feels bottled by the era they inhabit.

In the late 1800s, the introduction of electricity to everyday life has revolutionized Dr. Givings’ practice. Treating women for the generic ailment dubbed “hysteria,” Givings’ practice is buzzing thanks to electric-powered massagers that allow for vigorous and regular treatment. Givings’ emotionally and physically neglected wife Catherine interacts with her husband’s patients, including the Daltrys, who connect with Mrs. Givings and the physician’s staff in unexpected ways.

As Dr. Givings, Jeff Magnuson channels Chris Parnell’s character Dr. Spaceman from “30 Rock,” almost to the point of overt homage. Oblivious, na´ve and earnest, he begins as comic relief before his vulnerability and frustrations rise to the surface. It’s a humorously satisfying, nuanced performance. Nearly equal are Amy Winchell and Erin Hoffman, as Dr. Givings’ wife, Catherine, and Sabrina Daldry, a patient of the good doctor. Winchell is all wide-eyed innocence at first, before slowly allowing herself to feel and experience what she’s been long denied. Winchell turns an already sympathetic character into the rare voice that speaks to the viewer. You actively hope she finds happiness. Hoffman makes sexual repression funny and affecting, taking you on the journey as she discovers her body and herself.

Expertly directed and with simple-yeteffective set design by Mary Job, “In The Next Room” is an adult comedy that might make you cringe with its frankness, but offers enough humor and emotion to leave you satisfied.

“In The Next Room, or the vibrator play”

Over the Ledge Theatre Co. overtheledge.org Ledge (517) 318-0589,

8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, June 26-28; 2 p.m. Sunday, June 29 $10/$8 seniors/$6 students

Ledges Playhouse 137 Fitzgerald Park, Grand

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