Ever since Leopold von Sacher-Masoch penned his 1870 novel Venus in Furs, his name has been synonymous with masochism and the fascinating subculture practicing sexual dominance and subjugation. Perhaps for further probing, playwright David Ives deconstructed Sacher-Masoch’s work in his 2010 play Venus in Fur, an undeniably ferocious and tantalizing battle of the sexes, now showing at The Playhouse’s Cellar Theater through February 9.
Ives brilliantly uses the play within a play technique to dissect Sacher-Masoch’s story of Severin von Kusiemski and Wanda von Dunajew. As playwright and director Thomas Novachek prepares to leave after a day of disappointing and mindless auditions for the female lead, Vanda Jordan arrives and convinces him to read with her for her audition, despite exhibiting all the unfavorable and aggravating characteristics of the flighty actresses before her. Throughout the audition, Vanda reveals she has more knowledge of the play and its inspiration than she originally let on while simultaneously making her identity more ambiguous. Roles are reversed and the line between the characters’ reality and that of Thomas’ play begin to blur as they succumb to a sultry power play.
|Michael Holley as Thomas and Kacey Griffin as Vanda in The Playhouse's Venus in Fur. Photo by Siggi Ragnar.|
The set, designed by Abigail Entsminger, is a fitting canvas for Kaitlin Muse’s slow seductive lighting transitions. The evocative hues rise up Wanda’s neck as if mimicking the character blushing, then reality washes over Thomas and Vanda with a florescent imitation just as they approach a point of no return. Combined with Pat Smith’s seemingly coincidental, yet poignant sound effects and Sophia Bolles’ impeccable costuming, the design elements brought the production full circle with great intuition. The Playhouse’s production of Venus in Fur is a rapturous dramatic comedy full of innuendo, insight and seduction.
|Thomas and Vanda improvise a scene between Kusiemski and Venus. Photo by Siggi Ragnar.|
Venus in Fur will run at The Playhouse’s Cellar Theater through February 9, 2014 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sundays. This production contains strong language and adult themes. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit theplayhousesa.org.