The gifted Sara Ruhl, whose whimsical works usually ooze modernity even when steeped in ancient myth (“Eurydice”), strikes a quainter note with “In the Next Room or the vibrator play.” Set in the 1880s, the enjoyable but spotty comedy focuses on sprightly Catherine Givings (Laura Benanti), a new mother forced to retain a wet-nurse to compensate for her own lack of milk.

Catherine’s husband (Michael Cerveris) is a doctor who treats “hysterical” women (and an occasional man) using a vibrator to induce “paroxysms” (aka orgasms). Catherine befriends two of the patients who traipse through her living room on their way to his office. Flirtations between her, the medical professionals and patients ensue.

The abundance of plot suits the farcical side of the play’s personality. But “Next Room” is also a romantic comedy, and as such is overwhelmed by its emphasis on story over character. While Catherine is fully fleshed out, neither her husband (a cardboard cutout of a myopic, process-absorbed scientist) nor their relationship is sufficiently developed. As a result, the snow-kissed ending that unites them, while beautiful, has no foundation. It seems to come from another play.

‘In the Next Room or the vibrator play’
The Lyceum Theatre
149 W. 45th St.

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