Review: Love messes with the mind in 'Venus in Fur'
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 2:33 p.m.
Anyone who has ever fallen head-over-heels knows this simple truth: Love hurts. That which has the capacity to deliver the most divine passion and pleasure can become, with just a few more beats of the heart, the source of the most damning torture and pain. By baring our souls to our lovers, by eagerly handing over the key to our hearts, we soon discover that our beloved now also has access to our darkest secrets and desires — and holds the key to our undoing.
‘Venus in Fur'
What: David Ives' play about a demanding playwright/director and the actress he auditions, based on the 1870 novella
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 3
Where: Hippodrome Theatre, 25 SE Second Place
Tickets: $30-$35, $25 for senior citizens, $15 for students
Info: 375-4477, www.thehipp.org
This paradox is what fuels the Hippodrome's production of David Ives' Tony award-winning play, “Venus in Fur,” onstage now through Feb. 3.
Tim Altmeyer delivers a superb performance as Thomas Novachek, who has just spent an exasperating day in a rented studio auditioning women for the lead role in his new play, “Venus in Fur.” Thomas' play is an adaptation of the 19th century erotic novella, “Venus in Furs,” by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch — yes, the same person whose name and novella gave rise to the term “masochist.” As Thomas complains to his fiancée on the cell phone about the airheaded actresses he's had to deal with all day, a latecomer knocks on the door and lets herself in.
Actress Lauren Nordvig tantalizes as Vanda, who is late for the audition and appears to be the embodiment of all of the would-be leading ladies Thomas has been grousing about: Vanda stumbles through the door in a soaking wet trench coat, parks her big bag of costumes and props on the floor, confuses and misuses words, claims to have given the script just a cursory read on the way to Thomas' studio, and mistakes Thomas for another playwright. He sees right through the Victorian-era dress she pulls out of her costume bag, a dress that only thinly disguises the totally out-of-place and out-of-period black leather corset she's got on underneath.
Vanda somehow convinces Thomas to let her audition, and the more she reads, the more apparent it becomes that there's more to her than meets the eye. She knows the script by heart. She seems to be a natural for the part. Thomas immediately falls under her spell.
If you're worried that the play may be a little too racy for your refined tastes, relax. True, there's plenty of strong language, and the play raises questions about seduction, sex, sadomasochism, pornography and power, but there's no nudity and no pornography — at least not by today's standards. And though you'll see some exposed skin and plenty of leather and lace, much is left to the imagination (including the birch whips and bindings). More importantly, as Thomas himself points out, this play isn't about pornography or S&M. More than anything, “Venus in Fur” explores the many ways — both real and imagined — in which love can mess with your mind.
Not many small-town theaters have the gumption — some might call it audacity — to produce a Tony-award winning play like “Venus in Fur.” Of those that do, only a rare few possess the talent and stagecraft to pull it off. Fortunately for us, the Hipp just happens to be one of those rare gems. Kudos.