Venus in Fur (stage review)

A stage review from The Movie Snob.

Venus in Fur.  This was my first trip out to Circle Theatre in downtown Fort Worth, just a couple of blocks from Sundance Square.  The Dallas Morning News gave this 2010 play by David Ives a thumbs up a few weeks ago, mentioning that the actor and actress involved won last year’s local critics’ best-acting awards for their performances in The Taming of the Shrew.  Well, this play isn’t exactly Shakespeare.  Chris Hury plays Thomas, a playwright who is at his wits’ end because a full day of auditions has yielded no actress worthy to play the lead in his new play, Venus in Fur.  He’s about to go home when in bustles an actress named Vanda (Allison Pistorius), hugely late and tossing off excuses and profanities in a way that doesn’t suggest huge reservoirs of intelligence.  She begs him to give her a chance and read some lines with her, and he relents.  Suddenly, Vanda is a different person—commanding, barely needing the script, and easily slipping into and out of the European accent the play calls for.  The rest of the show is I guess what you would call a “psychosexual drama” (with some humorous moments) as the parties act out various scenes in Thomas’s play and Vanda messes with Thomas’s head in between those scenes.  It’s much racier than I was expecting.  Vanda spends most of the 95-minute run time in a small, black-leather outfit, and the play-within-a-play is apparently based on the 19th century novella Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch—whose name and works give us the word masochism.  The play-within-a-play is pretty tedious stuff—pretentious pseudo-philosophical pornography, I would call it—but the scenes in which Thomas and Vanda interact directly are sort of interesting.  And I will say that the actors are quite good and really give it their all.  On the whole, I can’t recommend this one, but I will keep my eye on Circle Theatre for future productions (especially one coming this fall: Fellowship! The Musical Parody of The Fellowship of the Ring).

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