River’s Edge Theatre Company will present In The Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) at Irvington Theater on Saturday, February 29 at 7:30 p.m. The Tony award-nominated play, written by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Hastings-on-Hudson resident Sara Wolkowitz, features local actors Jessica Arinella, Aisling Dono, Ed Herbstman, Gregory Jones, Sioux Madden, and Lauren Orkus, as well as NYC-based actor, Namakula Mu.
Proceeds will benefit Equality Now (www.equalitynow.org), a non-profit women’s rights organization that addresses violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world. Equality Now’s international network of lawyers, activists and supporters work to achieve legal and systemic change — holding governments responsible for ending legal inequality, sex trafficking, sexual violence, and harmful practices such as “child marriage.”
In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) is set in the 1880’s at the dawn of the age of electricity. (For tickets, visit www.artful.ly/store/events/19518.) The plot is based on the myth that doctors used vibrators to treat “hysterical” women (and some men); the play centers on a doctor and his wife and how his new therapy affects their entire household. Other themes include Victorian perspectives on sexual desire, motherhood, breastfeeding, and jealousy.
“It’s a fascinating play,” said director Wolkowitz, “written as a farce but about a really intense topic. Sometimes comedy can help us understand and work through very serious subject matter. And in theater, the audience plays a huge role.”
An independent filmmaker and theater director, Wolkowitz’s New York theater credits include Shut UP, Emily Dickinson! (coming to the Abrons Art Center in July, 2020), The Ultimate Stimulus (FringeNYC 2014, Dixon Place, Under St. Marks), Eleanor Is Sibling Challenged (The Magnet Theater), War Crimes (Planet Connections Festivity), Really Rosie (The Mint Theater), and Brooklyn Labyrinth (the BoCoCa Arts Festival). Film/TV credits include Still On The Road (PBS, Lincoln Center), Lightning Bugs in a Jar (Short Corner at Cannes Film Festival), and Never After (starring Gillian Anderson). Wolkowitz holds a B.A. degree in Film from Vassar College.
Founded by Ardsley couple Meghan and David Covington, River’s Edge Theatre Company (www.riversedgetheatre.com) debuted its first staged reading (Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker) last October at Irvington Theater to a packed audience and rave reviews. Proceeds benefited Family to Family (www.family-to-family.org), a grassroots nonprofit hunger and poverty relief organization.
The Covingtons donate a portion of the proceeds from every River’s Edge play to a charity aligned with the theme of the production, selecting material that “reflects the human experience, sparks conversation, and inspires social change.” In December, they presented Two Truths and a Lie — an interactive storytelling experience — at Hudson Social in Dobbs Ferry. Proceeds benefited the Innocence Project (www.innocenceproject.org), a nonprofit organization that works to exonerate the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and criminal justice system reform to prevent future injustice.
River’s Edge presents innovative theater that is both intimate and universal. “The Vibrator Play has the potential to make us think modern women have come a long way from the repressive Victorian era, but this isn’t always the case,” said Meghan Covington. “Equality Now’s mission reminds us that there is still a lot of work to do in terms of gender equality. There are many practices happening right now all over the world that our audience would consider unacceptable. That is why we chose to give proceeds to Equality Now.”
By raising funds and awareness, the conversation continues long after the curtain comes down. “This is the most important element,” said Wolkowitz; in addition to engaging the audience creatively and emotionally, River’s Edge performances mobilize that catharsis to help others.