Have you had much surgery? Can you imagine having it without pain relief?That's what director Michael Wilson uses to emphasize the importance of the story told in Ether Dome, the new three-act play premiering at the start of the Alley Theatre's 65th season. But beyond a purely medical story, Ether Dome tells a love-and-betrayal story about the real-life dentist Horace Wells, who discovered the use of anesthesia in the 1840s and had the credit stolen from him by an assistant. Wells, as it turns out, was a very godly man who ended up a chloroform addict and in jail in New York City, having assaulted two prostitutes, and dead at his own hand at age 33, leaving a penniless widow behind of age 30 and a younger son, Wilson says.
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Robert Lewis Stevenson modeled his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after him. Until Wells, scientists and physicians were too careful to risk trying something like ether or nitrous oxide. Following the discovery, Oliver Wendell Holmes reportedly declared: "We now have a world without pain." Of course, that same miraculous discovery also introduced to the mainstream world and the medical community substances that could be abused for addiction, Wilson adds. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Previews continue through September 13; opening night is September 14. Through October 9. 615 Texas. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit www.alleytheatre.org. $35 to $60.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Sept. 14. Continues through Oct. 9, 2011