×

Venus in Fur

"Venus in Fur," David Ives' cheeky adaptation of Leopold Sacher-Masoch's erotic 1870 novel and originally mounted at the Classic Stage Company, improves a lot in this Broadway transfer.

With:
Vanda - Nina Arianda
Thomas - Hugh Dancy

Venus in Fur,” David Ives’ cheeky adaptation of Leopold Sacher-Masoch’s erotic 1870 novel and originally mounted at the Classic Stage Company, improves a lot in this Broadway transfer. Chalk that up to helmer Walter Bobbie’s savvy re-casting of one of the players in this two-hander: In his confident turn as a modern-day playwright-director keen on exploring the sado-masochistic sexual dynamic, Hugh Dancy gives hot co-star Nina Arianda someone substantial to play to. Play is still overwritten and pretentious, but it’s a whole lot sexier with this well-matched pair taking turns at playing master and slave.

Playwright Thomas Novachek (Dancy) disrespects the goddess of love from his first speech, delivered on a cell phone, in which he contemptuously dismisses the 35 actresses he has auditioned that day to play the heroine of his play. The crack of thunder and lightning that cuts off his call and dims the lights is a clear sign that this arrogant young man will live to regret his words.

Popular on Variety

But the woman who bursts into the rehearsal studio is no angry goddess — just another unsuitable actress, burdened with character props and furiously cursing herself for missing the audition. As deliciously played by Nina Arianda (“Born Yesterday”), Vanda Jordan is a caricature of the dumb actress Thomas has been railing about. But Thomas is something of a caricature himself, of the sadistic director who asserts his power over his actors by humiliating them.

Vanda wins the first round of this battle of the sexes when she wheedles Thomas into letting her audition. It’s a stunning moment when this dizzy creature drops the vulgar manner and slips effortlessly into the role of Vanda von Dunayev, the mysterious temptress in Sacher-Masoch’s kinky novel and the heroine of Thomas’s play. Arianda delivers the same quicksilver performance she gave Off Broadway, only this time she doesn’t have to carry the whole show by herself.

Dancy (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”) has his fun with the insufferable Thomas, but he really gets into the game after Vanda talks the playwright into reading opposite her in the role of Kushemski, the masochistic aristocrat who can only find sexual pleasure under the booted heel of a dominatrix.

Vanda is happy to play that part — and she’s got the boots to make a convincing job of it. Strangely, she also seems to have intimate knowledge of both the script and the character she plays. By the time she and Thomas have broken out the whips and dog collars, both Arianda and Dancy have worked up a nice head of steam. (Although whatever made otherwise astute costumer Anita Yavich think that zipping up a zipper could be as erotic as lacing up a leather boot?)

But even at under two hours, the play still feels overworked, padded with repetitive seduction scenes and overwrought psycho-sexual arguments — much of it delivered in stilted 19th-century locutions. Talk about sadism.

Venus in Fur

Samuel J. Friedman Theater; 650 seats; $121 top

Production: A Manhattan Theater Club presentation, by special arrangement with Jon B. Platt, Scott Landis, and the Classic Stage Company, of a play in one act by David Ives. Directed by Walter Bobbie. (Originally reviewed on 11/08/2011)

Creative: Set, John Lee Beatty; costumes, Anita Yavich; lighting, Peter Kaczorowski; sound, Acme Sound Partners; production stage manager, Winnie Y. Lok. Opened Nov. 8, 2011. Reviewed Nov. 5. Running time: ONE HOUR, 45 MIN.

Cast: Vanda - Nina Arianda
Thomas - Hugh Dancy

More Legit

  • Freestyle Love Supreme

    Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda and 'Freestyle Love Supreme' in Exclusive Clip From Sundance Documentary

    Before turning “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” into musical phenomenons, Lin-Manuel Miranda could have been found on stage, spouting off-the-cuff rhymes with his improv group, “Freestyle Love Supreme.” After performing across the globe, the troupe — founded 15 years ago by Miranda, his frequent collaborator Thomas Kail and emcee Anthony Veneziale — made its Broadway [...]

  • Ariana Grande 7 Rings

    Rodgers & Hammerstein Are Having a Moment Thanks to Ariana Grande, 'Oklahoma!'

    Jaws dropped when it was revealed that the late musical theater titans Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were granted 90% of the songwriting royalties on “7 Rings,” Ariana Grande’s 2019 No. 1 hit. The dominant motif of Grande’s song is taken from “My Favorite Things,” the cornerstone of R&H’s 1959 musical “The Sound of [...]

  • A Soldiers Play review

    'A Soldier's Play': Theater Review

    Now, that’s what I call a play! Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “A Soldier’s Play,” now being revived on Broadway by Roundabout Theatre Company, packs plenty of dramatic tension into smoldering issues of racial justice and injustice, military honor and dishonor, and the solemn struggle to balance their harrowing demands on characters who are only [...]

  • Bess Wohl

    Listen: The Impossible Plays of Bess Wohl

    The playwright Bess Wohl is always chasing a wild idea — and she’s found that rather than scaring away her collaborators, it just makes them more eager. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I started my career thinking, oh, I’ll just write a play that’s really easy to do,” Wohl said on the latest episode [...]

  • Roundabout Theatre Company: Three New Plays

    Roundabout Theatre's Off-Broadway Season Adds Three Shows From Female Playwrights

    Roundabout Theatre Company, led by artistic director and CEO Todd Haimes, announced Tuesday that three female-written plays will be added to the 2020-2021 Off-Broadway season. Sanaz Toossi’s “English” will make its world premiere in fall of 2020, while Lindsey Ferrentino’s “The Year to Come” and Anna Ziegler’s “The Wanderers” will make their New York debuts [...]

  • Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant,

    Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant, Dies at 73

    Gregg Smith, a dancer, casting director and assistant choreographer who had a long association with director Kenny Ortega, has died. He was 73. Smith died on Jan. 1. The industry veteran worked as a performer in the national touring company of the musical “Hair” and in a Los Angeles production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He [...]

  • Frozen review musical

    Warmth and Humor Pervade Pantages Production of 'Frozen' the Musical

    In 2013, Disney’s “Frozen” hit screens like a 100 mile-per-hour snowball, sparking a pop cultural phenomenon in which little girls and boys pranced about dressed in Anna and Elsa and Olaf costumes while belting aloud “Let It Go,” Elsa’s feminist anthemic response to ice powers rendering her a societal outcast. The animated movie won two [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content