Monthly Archive for: ‘March, 2014’

Mysterious woman, power shifts highlight ‘Venus in Fur’

Shifts in power and a woman who isn’t what she seems at first make David Ives‘ “Venus in Fur” a fascinating 90 minutes of theater.

Presented by American Conservatory Theater and skillfully directed by Casey Stangl, this well-acted, two-person play features Brenda Meaney as Vanda, a hopeful actress, and Henry Clarke as Thomas, a director/adaptor.

Thomas has had a long, unproductive day auditioning actresses for the role of Vanda in “Venus in Fur,” a play he’s adapting from “Venus in Furs,” an 1870 novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. It’s from Sacher-Masoch that the term “masochism” has evolved.

Thomas is just about to go home from a sparsely furnished rehearsal studio (set by John Lee Beatty) to his fiancee when the breathless, flustered Vanda bursts in from a rainstorm and insists on auditioning. She says that because the woman in the two-character play is named Vanda, she’s perfect for the role.

She convinces Thomas to allow her to read from the first three pages of the script as Thomas reads the role of the male character, Severin.

Although she initially professes to know little about the play, it soon becomes apparent that she knows a great deal, having memorized many lines. Soon she and Thomas are not only reading the lines but re-enacting them.

The play-within-a-play concerns the dominant-submissive role in the sexual relationship between the fictional Vanda and Severin. Severin, like Thomas the director, has the power at first, but that power gradually transfers to Vanda, both the actress and the character.

Besides this element to Ives’ play, there’s also the question of who Vanda really is. Might she have supernatural qualities?

Costumes by Alex Jaeger speak volumes about each character. Thomas is casually dressed in jeans, a V-neck knit shirt and light jacket. Wearing stiletto heels, Vanda takes off her raincoat to reveal a sexy black leather miniskirt and black bustier to go with black stockings and black garters. The voluminous bag she carries contains a period dress for the Vanda character. It also contains a frock coat and butler’s jacket that fit Thomas perfectly even though they’ve never met. Likewise, she seems to have surprisingly accurate knowledge about Thomas, his fiancee and even their dog.

Sound by Will McCandless and light by Alexander V. Nichols from the outside storm heighten the tension in this 2012 Tony-nominated play, which has some sharply witty lines.

“Venus in Fur” has enjoyed great success around the country. This ACT production is sure to be a hit, too.

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