Mark Johnson's Reviews > Venus in Fur

Venus in Fur by David Ives
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Jul 05, 2012

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Read on July 05, 2012

This play is, above all, a gift to actors - a gift, and (which is to say the same thing) a challenge. The play consists of one extended scene which would last, I guess, about 90 minutes in the theater. A director, Thomas, is auditioning actresses for a leading role for a play he has written: an adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel 'Venus in Furs'. I should mention, as an aside, that, due to playwright David Ives' excellent and unobtrusive exposition, it is not necessary for one to have read Sacher-Masoch's rather tedious work in order to understand the play; a viewing of Titian's painting 'Venus and the Mirror' before going out to the theater would be helpful. After a very brief prologue spoken by Thomas into his cell phone, Vanda - an aspiring young actress - arrives, and the scene begins. Although there are four characters on stage(Thomas, Vanda, and the two characters they are playing during her audition), and two offstage (the 'significant others', represented onstage by cell phones), there are only two actors to play them all. The actors must be extraordinarily deft at shifting gears, because the transitions between personae occur at breakneck speed. On the page, these shifts are indicated by font changes; on stage, they must be telegraphed entirely through the actor's craft. Although the action could be interpreted on a number of different levels, I, on a first reading, was reminded of movies like 'Black Swan' and 'The Red Shoes'. In these both these films, the life of a performing artist begins to converge and ultimately fuses with the life and fate of the character she portrays onstage. Unfortunately for the silver screen ballerinas, they were both cast as tragic heroines. In 'Venus in Fur', Thomas's fate is much happier: although bottoms may be bruised, and feelings hurt, no lives are lost. One might call it a romantic comedy for the sadomasochist. I would highly recommend this script to actors for practice in shifting on a dime; I would recommend it to anyone else as a great play to go see if and when you have the chance.

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