BWW Reviews: VENUS IN FUR a Sexy, Hilarious Comedy
Sometimes a new, much talked about Broadway play is well deserving of the hype. Case in point: Venus in Fur. The play, by the brilliant David Ives, was the talk of New York back in 2011, largely in part to the Tony Award winning performance from Nina Arianda. Since becoming available to regional theaters, companies all over the nation have been scrambling to get the rights to produce this naughty little crowd-pleaser.
I assume that very few of those companies will be able to match the quality of The Playhouse's current mounting of it. Wildly funny and slyly erotic, Venus in Fur is the rare sex comedy that manages to be more than just a sex comedy. It's just as smart as it is sensual.
The play takes its inspiration from the 1870 novella Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, an exploration of a sado-masochistic relationship (the term "masochistic" comes from Sacher-Masoch himself) between submissive Severin von Kushemski and his mistress, Wanda. In Ives's adaptation, Thomas, a New York writer/director, has adapted the book for the stage and is desperately trying to find an actress to play Wanda. The coincidentally named Vanda Jordan arrives for her audition hours late, and despite her tardiness Thomas reluctantly allows her to audition. The quirky, enigmatic Vanda seems to know a bit too much about the material, and as the two begin to read the roles of Wanda and Severin, the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur.
Between the comedy, the sado-masochism, musings on literature and art, and commentary on sexual politics, there's quite a bit going on in Ives's play, and director John O'Neill is able to bring each element to the surface. The intimate Cellar Theater is the perfect setting for this enthralling game of cat and mouse, and set designer Abigail Entsminger and lighting designer Kaitlin Muse turn the space into a dirty, rusty warehouse.
Of course, this two-person comedy would fall flat if not well cast, and O'Neill is armed with two of San Antonio's best performers. Kacey Griffin is perfectly cast as Vanda. A feminist in hooker heels, Vanda is fiery, bubbly, and entirely likeable. Yes, she's "really demure and s***" as she puts it, but she's also wonderfully manipulative, sexy, and domineering. It's a delight to watch her turn from sweet and wholesome to racy and sexually aggressive. And though Vanda might dominate poor defenseless Thomas, Griffin never overpowers her co-star, Michael Holley. Holley's dry humor is well matched with Griffin's energetic performance, and he never recedes into the background despite this really being Vanda's play.
Even if whips, chains, and stiletto boots aren't your thing, Venus in Fur is sure to titillate you. If you're a fan of strong performances and fantastic writing, go see Venus in Fur.
Note: Recommended for adults only.
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
VENUS IN FUR plays The Playhouse - San Antonio at 800 West Ashby, San Antonio 78212 now thru February 9th. Performances are Friday thru Sunday at 8pm with an additional performance on Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $10-$25. For tickets and information, please visit www.theplayhousesa.org