Click for Ann Arbor, Michigan Forecast
Wednesday May 24, 2017
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
Venus in Fur actors

Venus in Fur

Fifty shades of something

by Sally Mitani

From the April, 2014 issue

Venus in Fur by David Ives made a big splash off Broadway and an even bigger one on Broadway when Nina Arianda won a Tony in 2012 for playing the role of Vanda in this two-hander based on a nineteenth-century erotic novella. Because of its racy origins, Venus likes to market itself as Fifty Shades of Gray meets--what? good writing, perhaps? If I were producing it, I'd probably take that irresistible low road too. Venus in Fur is a play within a play that purports to dramatize Venus in Furs (plural) by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the guy who put the "masoch" in sado-masochism. The Performance Network poster is all kinky boots and fishnet stockings, and the website purringly describes it as "Epic. Intimate. Bondage."

Surprise! It's more in the tradition of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, David Mamet's Oleanna, and Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile--an hour and a half of crashing, colliding tectonic plates of intellectual history, thrillingly served up as watchable drama. Black leather is trivial titillation compared to the blissful release of "Oh my God! I don't need to read the twenty years' worth of Michigan Quarterly Review gathering dust in my office! I just saw them all summarized here!"

Thomas (played by Sebastian Gerstner) is directing his dramatization of the Sacher-Masoch text, and Vanda (Maggie Meyer) is an actress auditioning for a role in it. During her audition she analyzes and skewers the educated white male and his privileged position in the world, tackling him from perspectives you could call Marxist, feminist, Freudian, postmodern, and just about any other school of critical thought that has thundered through the last few centuries. Sometimes she gets tired of cogent argument and simply resorts to witty heckling.

And--as if there needs to be more--it's also about the seduction of theater and how role-playing is the very stuff of life itself. With all that, there's very little room for erotic shenanigans, though the lissome Meyer does cut a delectable figure stomping around the stage in leather bustier and high heels. Most of the time, I just wanted to listen to what she was saying and marvel at how she was saying it. Wondering whether it was possible that someone could be more captivating and inventive in this role than Maggie Meyer, I watched a clip of Arianda in her Tony-winning interpretation. Although it was just a snippet, I swear she didn't come close.

The play's run has recently been extended through April 13.    (end of article)

[Originally published in April, 2014.]

 



 
Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Rescue and Advocacy
Social and Political Activism
Ann Arbor Stone & Tile Opens
With three stores, Andrei Napau has a complicated commute.
Sabine Bickford
A Dean Departs
Aaron Dworkin cuts short his tenure at SMTD
Eve Silberman
Today's Events
Photo: The Chenille Sisters at Water Hill
Subscribe to the Ann Arbor Observer
Bourbon Latte at Milan Coffee Works
Quick bite: May 2017
Sally Mitani
Talking Literature
At local book clubs, "some of our best discussions are about books we don't like."
Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
A Big Vacancy
Opportunity at Briarwood and other marketplace closings
Sally Mitani
Grieve Well Kite Festival June 17th 2017
Victors for art at the university of Michigan Museum of art
Grieve Well Kite Festival June 17th 2017