CHAPEL HILL – PlayMakers Repertory Company, the professional theatre in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, kicks off another Mainstage Season Sept. 21-Oct. 9 with Sarah Ruhl’s comedy “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play).”

“In the Next Room” was a 2010 Tony Award nominee for Best Play, as well as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Playwright Sarah Ruhl (author of “Euridyce,” “The Clean House,” “Dead Man’s Cell Phone”) has been honored with a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant.”  “In the Next Room” was her Broadway debut.

The story is inspired by historic fact surrounding the late 1800s invention of the then-new medical device named in the play’s title. An invention originally intended to treat patients afflicted with “female hysteria.” The show is a charming and insightful tale of desire, frustration, and sympathy and understanding between the sexes.

“‘In the Next Room’ is written with the sensibility of a play by George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde, seen through the lyrical lens of one of America’s finest modern playwrights, and presented with sets and costumes evocative of the Victorian era,” said Joseph Haj, PlayMakers producing artistic director.

“Breathtakingly inventive … a modern masterpiece” said the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times cheekily called the play “spirited and stimulating.”

Actor-director-producer Vivienne Benesch will direct the PlayMakers production. She has worked extensively on and Off Broadway, in film and television, and at many of the country’s most eminent theaters. Benesch is co-artistic director of the Chautauqua Theater Company and Conservatory in New York. She has directed many productions for Chautauqua and is a frequent director at The Juilliard School, as well.

All performances of “In the Next Room” will be in the Paul Green Theatre at UNC’s Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road.

Show times will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, and 2 p.m. Sundays. For a complete schedule, more information and to purchase tickets, call (919) 962-PLAY (7529) or visit www.playmakersrep.org. Tickets are $10 to $45.

In conjunction with “In the Next Room,” PlayMakers will host “The Vision Series-Directors in Conversation,” a behind-the-scenes preview with Vivienne Benesch at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 14. Theatre-goers and others interested in the creative process are invited to the Paul Green Theatre to share wine, coffee and other refreshments, learn about the production and get a behind-the-scenes look at the design and vision for the show.

“The Vision Series” is free and open to the public. Reservations are encouraged, as space is limited. Call PlayMakers’ box office at 919.962.7529 to RSVP.

Other special events during “In the Next Room” will include:

  • Sept. 19, 6 p.m.: a free program with the director and company members at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village, Pittsboro;
  • Sept. 21-23, 7:30 p.m.: preview performances;
  • Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m.: the opening night performance, with a complimentary gala party afterward;
  • Sept. 26, 7 p.m.: an “In the Wings” discussion at the Durham County Library’s Southwest Regional branch, 3605 Shannon Road;
  • Oct. 1, noon: The Prologue Series, with PlayMakers and the Chapel Hill Library presenting a pre-show conversation with a member of the PlayMakers creative team (check PlayMakers’ Web site for the location);
  • Sept. 28 and Oct. 2: free post-show discussions with the creative team;
  • Oct. 4: an all-access performance for attendees with special needs, with sign language interpretation and audio description; and
  • Oct. 8 and 9: free post-show “Mindplay” discussions sponsored by the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society.

Counter Culture Coffee is co-producing sponsor for “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play).”

During its 2011/12 Mainstage Season, PlayMakers will also present the world premiere of “The Parchman Hour: Songs and Stories of the ’61 Freedom Riders” (Oct. 26-Nov. 13); Edward Albee’s savagely funny “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (Nov. 30-Dec. 18); and the Shakespearean epic “The Making of a King: Henry IV & Henry V” (performed in rotating repertory Jan. 28-March 4). The season ends with the uproarious British comedy “Noises Off” by Michael Frayn (April 4-22). 

PlayMakers is based in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. The Drama League has named PlayMakers one of the “best regional theatre companies in America.”

Coverage note: Media are welcome to cover “The Vision Series” preview and director’s talk at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 14. Photography, videography, lights and flashes are not restricted. For assistance, call (919) 962-5359.

PlayMakers contact: Connie Mahan, (919) 962-5359, cmahan@email.unc.edu