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In the Next Room (2017)

I was in Greenbelt Mall one afternoon, looking for an activity that could double as "cultural education", but not another visit to the museum because there wasn't a new exhibit yet. Then I passed by OnStage, the theatre housed in Greenbelt 1, in which the Repertory Philippines was performing "In the Next Room", a period piece by Sarah Ruhl.

Yeah, why not? I haven't seen a play in a long time. And so as I settled into my seat, I noticed the stage... it was beautifully designed down to the most intricate of details. Signature Rep. I was expecting nothing less from the training ground of some of the Philippines' best theatre talents.


I just didn't take to heart what the second part of the play's title, "The Vibrator Play" meant... because it seems to be anachronistic to the Victorian era (19th century) setting. What was I thinking? This was the Rep, after all... it keeps pushing the boundaries of Philippine theatre audiences.

While the performance was peppered by laughter coming from the audience, in reaction with how "hysteria", tension in womens' loins, in the two repressed women characters via the use of an electric vibrator, a look at the subtexts of the play makes one think about relationships between husbands and wives in high society and their gender roles during that time period; i.e., women were so restrained and were expected to look after the home, as indicated by their corseted and heavy clothing, and men were so restrained by the dictates of society to the point that their relationships as spouses were constricted as well. It was a story about the road to liberation from those shackles for both husband (the doctor) and wife, and perhaps for a third and a fourth supporting character. However, given the time period, it never got to the point of overcoming the seeming lack of education of the women characters, beyond music and arts. 

Just one question though, on a theme that seems to be perpetuated by plays, movies, and other forms of art: Why is liberation from social norms typically equated with how one views the sexual act?

Overall, it was an enjoyable way to cap my Saturday afternoon. And a thought-provoking one too. Filled with intellectual humour, this comedy made me rather pensive as I walked out of the theatre, instead of laugh-out-loud happy.

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