June 9, 2012

Venus in Fur

Venus in Fur stars Nina Arianda as Wanda (pronounced Vanda), an actress who boldly pushes her way to audition for a play written by Thomas (Hugh Dancy).  She is tardy, but fully prepared, complete with costumes and an intimate knowledge of the script.  The playwright is directing a production based on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel about Severin Kushemski.  The novel's protagonist is a nobleman whose feelings for Vanda Duneyev, a woman he meets at a spa, lean towards S & M.
Ms. Arianda is a powerhouse on stage, earning a well deserved Tony nomination. A great physical comedienne, she is also by turns, seductive, innocent, brazen. Her performance is riveting.  A play within a play, Wanda abruptly but effortlessly goes in and out of character to question the writer.  Is Thomas revealing his own sexual proclivities through his work? It's a love story, he insists.  As the audition continues, the actress-writer/director dynamics shift.  She starts to dominate the proceedings, the transitions between Wanda/Vanda and Thomas/Kushemski increasingly revelatory for the playwright.
The show doesn't fully resolve the questions of who Vanda is. Is her name really Wanda-pronounced-as- Vanda?  How she does she know so much about Thomas, as well as Vanda the character?  This was probably where it left me hanging.  But otherwise, it's a unique but bewildering study of male-female power struggles and sexual politics.
The show closes 17 June 2012.

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