There’s real emotional turmoil mixed in with the simulated orgasms and double entendres, and it’s to Ruhl’s credit that In the Next Room feels like a cohesive work and pulls off the tonal fluctuations.
Johnson is good as the flighty, excitable Catherine, even if the character can become rather grating. Cummings proves a wry foil, acting as the supremely calm and measured counterpoint.
It’s Hughes who turns in the show’s best performance, though, in a small, unshowy role that sees her carefully guarding her emotion up until an immensely moving monologue near the play’s end about the pain of loss.
Artistic director Kurt Beattie keeps all the balls in the air with his direction, as the play often exists on two planes — what’s happening inside the operating room and what’s happening outside of it. As per usual, Matthew Smucker’s scenic design is exquisitely detailed and creates a real sense of distinct space between the two locations even though they sit right next to one another.
In the Next Room smartly refuses to pigeonhole itself into one kind of play, respectfully and honestly exploring the complexities of emotional and sexual dissatisfaction.
Tickets for the show are available at ACT’s website.