VENUS IN FUR
By Marlene S. Gaylinn
Audiences giggle and behave like school kids when they hear four-letter words. Playwrights use such exclamations as if they are part of everyone’s daily language because shocking words draw anticipation of more sinful things to follow. David Ives chooses to begin his one-act play by repeating the “F” word and uses foot stomping for emphasis as “Vanda,” played by sexy Liv Rooth, enters the scene -- although surprisingly, foul language and nudity is not what the play is mainly about.
Vanda is late for an audition and desperately wants the lead in a sexy play that Thomas (David Wells) is directing. Disappointed and frustrated by the nit-witted gals that auditioned earlier, Thomas has given up for the day while the vulgar Vanda stubbornly insists on trying out for the role -- right then and there. The actress announces that she knows the play by heart and even brought costumes with her -- as she throws off her coat and reveals her lovely body clad in black leather and choke chain necklace (minus the whip). While, the audience is wondering if Vanda is going to have to strip completely in order to get the director’s attention, she reaches into her duffle bag and puts the heroine’s long, white dress over her black outfit -- a tease that is used throughout the play.
At first take Vanda is a complete turn-off. Like all the other girls he auditioned, she gives Thomas the impression of just one more ditzy dame. She can’t even pronounce English correctly. However, when she assumes the role of a European aristocrat in this 1870 sadistic play by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (S&M was named after him) her dialect becomes perfect and she magically turns into the character Thomas desires for his play. What follows is some very intriguing cat and mouse dialogue, the actors switch back and forth from the play to reality, the dominant sex roles reverse, and the titillated viewer cannot help but imagine much more than is actually being shown on stage. One of the most erotic teasers is when Rooth seductively stretches out her legs while Wells s-l-o-w-l-y helps to pull up her thigh-length, leather boots -- ending his actions with a sadistic thrust.
Needless to say, Liv Rooth and David Wells are superb actors. Director, Rob Ruggiero, expertly develops tension leading to the climax, and synchronized thunderclaps and lightning by John Lasiter and Vincent Olivier add storm to the foreboding scenes. From the audience’s rousing reaction it was evident that folks really enjoyed every moment.
Extended to Nov. 18
This review appears in “On CT & NY Theatre” October/2012