The Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts presents Melissa James Gibson’s “Placebo,” aptly described by The New York Times as an “offbeat comedy-drama,” a humorous and knowing portrait of the agonies of academia and human relationships.

Sharply funny, touching, and unapologetically witty, “Placebo” delves deep into the contemporary and universal human challenges of desire, doubt, and the eternal quest for meaning and fulfillment.

“Placebo” centers around Louise, a doctoral candidate working on a placebo-controlled study of a new drug to enhance female libido, aptly and comedically called “Resurgo;” her partner, Jonathan, a classics scholar struggling to complete his dissertation on Pliny the Elder; Mary, a participant in Louise’s study desperate to right the ship of her marriage; and Tom, another researcher studying “aural stimulation.”

“It is such a smart play, evoking that wonderful laughter of recognition — our capacity to both laugh at ourselves and simultaneously have huge empathy for the characters’ hopes that something will magically fix us,” said director Susanna Rinehart, associate professor of theatre in the School of Performing Arts.

At its core, "Placebo" serves as a mirror that reflects the ceaseless human pursuit of fulfillment. The play navigates the tortuous dance between desire and self-doubt, portraying the universal tendency to seek out something more — something seemingly unattainable and yet relentlessly sought after. Gibson’s “Placebo” gives us a compelling and hilarious exploration of our search for purpose versus subsistence, of desire versus self-doubt and the stories we tell ourselves as we are “stalking happiness with a machete.”

This marks the third time the School of Performing Arts has produced a work by Gibson, a playwright renowned for her keen ability to craft characters and scenarios that offer a comically recognizable window into human relationships and give voice to the thoughts and feelings we often harbor but rarely express out loud.

Tickets and parking

Performances of “Placebo” are Sept. 26-29 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15 general or $12 senior/student and may be purchased through the Moss Arts Center ticket office in person or online. Tickets will be available at the door in the Squires Student Center beginning one hour prior to the performance. Find links for online purchase.

All seating is general admission. The performance is approximately 90 minutes.

All university community members and visitors will need to display a parking permit, use the ParkMobile apppay a fee, or pay using an hourly meter to park on the Blacksburg campus unless otherwise noted by signage. Find additional parking information online.

If you are an individual with a disability and/or desire an accommodation, please contact Susan Sanders prior to the event.

Written by P.K. Dawson, a graduate student in career and technical education in the School of Education

Share this story