In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)
Sarah Ruhl has been the playwright of the moment for a while, and she has the half-million-dollar MacArthur Fellowship (the "genius" grant) to prove it. Her 2009 play, In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), opens Friday and runs through May 20 at freeFall Theatre, 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. It is a comedy of manners about women's sexuality, set in Victorian times when all sorts of female problems were explained as "hysteria." Enter the vibrator (invented around 1878 and one of the first electric appliances) to provide relief, though suggesting it had anything to do with sex was taboo. With a cast that includes Trenell Mooring, Chris Swan, Nichole Hamilton and Meg Heimstead, Next Room is directed by Lisa Powers, fresh off her tour de force starring in 2.5 Minute Ride at American Stage. Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. $37-$44, with $3 discount for students, teachers, seniors and military. Preview tonight is $20. (727) 498-5205; freefalltheatre.com. This Saturday night's performance is a benefit for Planned Parenthood; patrons interesting in attending should call (941) 365-3913 or visit myplannedparenthood.org.
After he'd made his name with comedies littered with snappy one-liners and punch lines, Neil Simon wrote an autobiographical trilogy, including Biloxi Blues, which opens this weekend and runs through May 20 at Stageworks, 1120 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. Set at an Army basic training camp in 1943, it tells the story of Eugene (Ricky Cona), who wants to achieve three things during World War II — become a writer, lose his virginity and stay alive. Karla Hartley, who directed American Stage in the Park's Rocky Horror Show, also is in charge of the Stageworks production of the Simon play, which has performances at 8 tonight through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. $24.50. (813) 251-8984; stageworkstheatre.org.
Tampa Repertory Theatre's incubator company has a show of five one-act plays by Tampa playwrights that opens tonight and runs through May 20 at the Silver Meteor Gallery, a small performance space by the railroad tracks in Ybor City. Two of the plays are by Sheila Cowley (operations manager at WMNF radio): Almost Like Croatia and Wait. Also on the agenda are Something New by Amanda Buck, The Imaginary Man by Landon Green and Uncharted Feelings by Megan Lamasney. Matthew Ray and Greg Milton share directing. Performances are at 8 p.m. today through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Silver Meteor, 2213 E Sixth Ave., Tampa. $15. Information: tamparep.org.
John Fleming, Times performing arts critic