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 explores communication complexities in “Tribes”

pear-tribes-sylvia-billyBy Ande Jacobson

The Pear makes quite a statement with its current production of Tribes, by Nina Raine. Humans are by nature tribal, i.e., as a species, we tend to gather based on some kind of commonality. That commonality can be defined in many ways such as being descended from a common ancestor, forming a community of common customs and traditions, following a common leader, or any other distinction that provides a basis for cohesion. Within a given tribe, there’s usually some form of hierarchy, and in modern times, it’s common for someone to belong to a number of tribes. 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

The Pear explores the intimacy of love, friendship, and yes, “Intimate Apparel”

intimate-apparelBy Ande Jacobson

Lynn Nottage’s title, Intimate Apparel, sounds like it may be an advertisement for Victoria Secret, but that only scratches the surface of the material central to this play as Pear Avenue Theatre’s production explores many levels of intimacy beyond the clothing. This is a play about friendship, love, marriage, class, race, and yes, hand-crafted intimate garments. Continue reading