Paroxysms, circa 1880s, abound at the Pear

By Ande Jacobson

According to a handy, modern medical dictionary, a paroxysm is defined as:

  1. a sudden violent attack, especially a spasm or convulsion, or
  2. the abrupt worsening of symptoms or recurrence of disease.

In a broad sense, the first definition fits the 1880s meaning in terms of all outward appearances, but that’s not exactly what they meant by the word in those days – at least as it’s used in Sarah Ruhl’s play, In the Next Room or the vibrator play, currently on stage at the Pear Theatre. This work was inspired by Rachel P. Maines‘ research. Maines specializes in the history of technology and accidently discovered an odd connection between medical practice of late 19th century and technological advances in the use of electricity based on ads from numerous American women’s magazines from the era. The new gadget of the time was the precursor to the modern vibrator, and it was used to treat the nebulous, mostly female malady known as “hysteria” through “manipulation of the uterus” resulting in “paroxysms” that were supposed to fix the imbalance. Looking back from the present, it seems far more likely that the symptoms this 19th century device was supposed to treat resulted from taboos surrounding intimacy, ignorance, fiendish fashion norms, gender discrimination, and an extremely patriarchal society. Continue reading

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The Pear’s “Uncanny Valley” touches the heart of the Silicon Valley

uncanny-valley-2By Ande Jacobson

The Pear takes a stunning leap into the world of science fiction with Thomas Gibbons’ play, Uncanny Valley. What constitutes sentience, and more than that, what makes a person a person? Taking a further leap, can we conceive of a time when a robot could be considered a person? The world of science fiction has explored this in myriad ways over the years. In the mid-20th century, Isaac Asimov set forth the Three Laws of Robotics in his short story Runaround (one of the stories in the I Robot collection) which stated:

  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Continue reading

The nightly rise and fall of “The Walls of Jericho”

pear-jericho-1By Ande Jacobson

The Pear christened its new space on 19 September 2015 with the gala opening of The Walls of Jericho, and A Good Reed Review missed it. Although a little late to the party this time, this world premiere run of Diane Tasca’s stage adaptation of Samuel Hopkins Adams’ short story, “Night Bus”, was well-worth waiting for. In this second week of production, the cast members are comfortable in their characters, and the new space is everything one could hope for in an intimate black box theatre. Continue reading

The Pear is willing, wanting, and waiting for you to come see “Pygmalion”

pyg_pub1-4839By Ande Jacobson

The Pear’s audiences have been treated to a number of plays by George Bernard Shaw over the years, so it isn’t at all surprising that this season features Pygmalion coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the play. Many theatergoers are familiar with the popularized versions of the story from the stage and movie musicals entitled My Fair Lady. The musicals don’t quite capture the wit, bite, and unconventional nature of Shaw’s original play, as they are closer to classical romances with a love interest at the core. Pygmalion isn’t a love story. It’s a romance of provocative discovery, and The Pear’s production embraces the delicious display of Shaw’s views on the English class system. Continue reading