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Lolabrickita Theatre’s debut production, In the Next Room, is a captivating experience that is both hysterical and heartbreaking

By Ezekiel McAdams

June 13 2024


  Lolabrickita Theatre’s debut production, In the Next Room is a powerful, confident, hysterical play that explores heavy themes and exceptionally uses comic hijinks, character driven and situational humor to sweeten the experience.


  In The Next Room is written by playwright Sarah Ruhl and is directed by Lolabrickita Theatre’s founder and Artistic Director, Laura Negraeff. The production stars Savanah Gallant, Peace Atkintade, Rachel McLaughlin, Kevin Moxley, Jordie Richardson, Ciera Vadnais and Matthew Wiwchar.


The production runs from June 12-16th 2024 at Persephone’s Backstage theatre.


  The play is set in the 1880s and focuses on Dr. Givings (Richardson), his wife, Catherine (Gallant), two of his patients, Sabrina Daldry (McLaugghlin) and Leo Givings (Moxley), Dr Givings assistant, Annie (Vadnais) and Catherine (Akintade), an African woman who becomes the Givings’ wet nurse who recently lost her infant child. Dr. Givings, has created a new device, a vibrator, to treat hysteria in women and the occasional man.


  The play is able to explore complex themes ranging from mental health, repressed female sexuality, female sexual awakenings ethnic stereotypes, gaslighting and the loss of a child.

In The Next Room (l-r) Rachel McLaughlin, Jordie Richardson, Ciera Vadnais Stacey Clancy.j
In The Next Room (l-r) Jordie Richardson, Matthew Wiwchar, Ciera Vadnais, Rachel McLaughli
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  Gallant’s portrayal of Catherine is so effervescent, jubilant, curious and irascible as her zest for life, new experiences and self exploration often gets her in trouble as she has no filter. Gallant is able to hide Catherine’s pain, frustration and rage underneath her bubbly exterior, that when it boils to the surface or explodes like a volcano, it is heartbreaking and guttural.

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  McLaughlin plays Sabrina with such nuance and a myriad of internal and external emotions with her mannerisms, body movement and vocal cadence. McLaughlin shows an earnest vulnerability as she explores same sex feelings towards Dr. Givings, assistant, Annie.

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  Richardson plays Dr Givings very obtuse and oblivious in all aspects of his life. For his wife, women, his patients and other people’s feelings. Mixed with the bull in the china shop attitude is his love of electricity, his penchant for science and research that blinds him to everything else around him. Richardson brings a naivety to his performance that makes the performance more complex and layered.

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  Moxley brings a sense of moxie and gregariousness to his character Leo Irving, as he waltzes through the characters lives with such disruption and oblivious chaotic energy. Moxley uses a old style Victorian affection that never feels stereotypical or forced.

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  Akintade has a warmth and standoffish to her character, Elizabeth, as she has to deal with the characters assumptions, misunderstandings and the discomfort that comes with having to talk about the death of her young child, Henry Douglas to place Catherine’s fears and insecurities. Akintade brings a powerful energy on stage, whether the character has lines or is silent.

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  Vadnais' performance may be the highlight of the production. Vadnais makes use of her every scene which allows her limited presence to truly shine. She is able to put emphasis resonate emotion on the very few lines Annie is given. It is however, her facial expressions, body movement and performance that are captivating as she is hilarious in an expressive form but underlining is the hidden affections for Sabrina that adds such rich subtext.

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  The performance is very reminiscent of the pairing of magicians, Penn and Teller. Penn is loud, and loquacious with the silent yet expressive Teller. Vadnais substitutes being the Teller to Richardson’s Penn. The performance culminates with a very powerful scene between her and McLaughlin’s characters that is a slow build throughout the performance.

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  Finally, Wilwchar as Sabrina’s husband, Mr. Daldry, makes an impression in his limited time on stage. Wilwchar evokes a sense of whimsy, obliviousness, enthrallment and bumbling yet social awkwardness in his portrayal.

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  Negraeff’s direction is so confident and measured in the way she can had social hijinks, laugh out loud scenes, juxtaposed with melancholy despair and sexual liberation and empowerment. While


  Negraeff has directed before with, her direction with this production shows a confidence that would make one think she has been doing this for decades.


  The stage is split into two sections, a parlor and operating theatre, and while a conversation is going on in the other room, “the next room” shows vulnerability in the dimly lit ascetic where the characters undress waiting for the procedure to begin.


  Negraeff allows the actors to bring a complexity whether it is body performance, subtext that makes every character richer, that you forget you’re watching actors on a stage.


  Each member of the ensemble was so expressive with their facial features, body language and movement that Negraeff painted a picture that told you everything you needed to know about each character.


  Negraeff's direction was able to alternate each scene from fast pace, to a slow, meandering crawl that allows the themes to be fully presented and balances both effortlessly.

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The set and prop design by Conor Farrell is so simplistic and familiar that it evokes a sense of comfort and nostalgia that allows it to truly be an immersive backdrop.

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  The costume design by Julia Kowalski and Emma Custafson are regal, timely, elegant and simplistic for the time period of the 1880s. The costumes capture the time period and our pre-conceived notions and expectations beautifully.

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  There needs to be a special mention and importance of the intimacy director, Akintade, as well as the intimacy coordinator, Oli Guselle, who are both instrumental for allowing the actors to be  as vulnerable as nuanced on stage with the subject matter on display.

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  The lightning design by Cody Brayshaw was a character of its own as the lighting on the two rooms on stage was executed brilliantly and really helped set the tone, mood and atmosphere on stage.

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  The sound design by Lorna Batycki was an added ingredient that helped finalize small touches that helped with the set and lighting design that amalgamated an atmosphere that was essential to the flow of the production.

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  Richardson also pulled double duty as fight director and was able to maintain a balance and safety that is just as much needed as an intimacy director that allows the production to run smoothly.


  Finally, the work of Stacey Tates Clancy as stage manager, Leza Pewapsconias as assistant stage manager, photographer Adam Clancy, Nissa and Darwin McMaster who did the vibrator construction, Xavier Negraeff who was the painting assistant and Britainy Zapshalla as media relations were all key to making the production fire on all cylinders.


  Lolabrickita Theatre made a strong impression with their debut production of In the Next Room. This is such a well thought out, crafted and executed piece of theatre by Negraeff and the cast that is thematically timely and effortlessly mixes comedy and drama to such an exceptional level.


Because of the limited run of the production, this play is a must see and deserves recognition for what has been created due to the direction, cast and crew!


  In the Next Room isn’t just special, it is a marvelously confident in the ambience and atmosphere it creates and is a roller coaster of emotion you may anticipate but be pleasantly surprised by.


  In The Next Room runs from June 12-16th 2024 at Persephone’s Backstage Theatre. Tickets can be bought online here or at the box office.                          

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