Huntington’s ‘Venus in Fur’ is smart, sexy fun
BOSTON — There’s a storm a-brewin’ outside, and soon there’ll be a storm brewing inside in the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of David Ives’ “Venus in Fur” at the BU Theatre.
A New York City writer/director named Thomas Novachek (Chris Kipiniak) has auditioned 35 actresses, all to no avail, for the female lead Wanda von Dunayev in his adaptation of the novel “Venus in Furs,” which he is also directing.
He conveys his disappointment to his fiancee on his cellphone, telling her he is heading out the door amid thunderclaps outside and rain pouring down. “Half are hacks and half are dykes,” he says.
But into the room strides a sopping-wet actress named Vonda Jordan (Andrea Syglowski), utterring an unfiltered number of screeds about the weather, the subway and the pervert who felt her up on the train.
Thomas’ first thought is to dismiss her and head out the door, and he tells her to come back another time.
But she pleads and cajoles, and something strikes a chord with Thomas, who at this point holds all the cards. He lets her stay, and what follows is a smart, sexy 90 minutes of theater.
Thomas and Vonda start reading from Thomas’ script, and a few things seem strange.
She claims to have barely scanned the play, but from the first few words is perfectly in character, and soon dons an 1870-style dress much like the one the character would have worn. Also perplexing is that she was never on the list of actors to be auditioned that day.
As the script readings gain intensity, they immerse themselves in their characters — he as the submissive Severin von Kushemski, she as the dominant Wanda. They gradually begin to lose touch with reality and it’s hard to tell where reality ends and the play begins.
She strokes his ego, saying he should be playing the male lead in the production, but later makes pithy comments about the sexism and misogyny of his work that will foreshadow later events.
The dominance — and the power — will switch back and forth several times during the 90 minutes
The dialogue does begin to resemble soft-core porn, befitting the original novel “Venus in Pelz,” Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s notorious tome about the connection between sex and cruelty.
“There is nothing more sensuous than pain,” is one memorable line.
Director Daniel Goldstein oversees two actors with good instincts and ratchets up the intensity throughout.
Kipiniak as Thomas is anxious throughout, perhaps someone who has injected himself into the psyche character of the character he has written, and Syglowski projects an easy sensuality as Vanda/Wanda.
Matt Saunders’ generic New York City rehearsal studio is nicely-detailed and a strong backdrop.
“Venus in Fur,” which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play in 2012, has obviously struck a chord in the theater community nationally; there will be 22 productions of the piece this theater season.
There just aren’t that many smart, sexy, comedies around, and this happens to be one of them.
The Huntington Theatre Company production of David Ives’ “Venus in Fur.” Directed by Daniel Goldstein. At the BU Theatre through Feb. 2. http://www.huntingtheatre.org