Bonnie Goldberg

Do you remember when Susan Boyle, in her middle-aged frumpery, first appeared on "Britain's Got Talent" and the judges, including the head skeptic Simon Cowel, looked at her with pity and derision? Do you also recall when she opened her lips and sang like an angel: both the audience and the judges sat up with mouths agape? This unlikely contestant wowed their socks off.


In a similar fashion, when Vanda, a ditzy wannabe actress first lands on playwright/director Thomas's doorstep, she seems to be the epitome of a casting call mistake. Enter the world of theater, courtesy of Hartford TheaterWorks, for the intense and involving confrontation, comically dramatic, of "Venus in Fur" by DavidĀ  Ives extended until Sunday, November 18.


David Christopher Wells' Thomas has just endured auditions by thirty-five women who are clearly not his vision for the courtly and polished lady in his new play. Now, much to his dismay, number thirty-six is standing, dripping from the storm, in his office demanding to be heard.


That Vanda, in a short black leather and zippered outfit, complete with gartered black stockings, looks more like a porn star than an 1870's countess is an understatement. Her language is coarse and insistent. She must and will be heard and she coerces Thomas into granting her an audition, with Thomas reading the part of the emotionally scarred gentleman, traumatized by an incident from his youth, that has left him sexually shattered.


Liv Rooth's Vanda is part siren, part Greek goddess and all woman, a sultry sexpot who knows her powers and uses them indiscriminately and effectively to gain her goals. Exactly who she is is a mystery. How does she have the whole script? How is she letter perfect in the part? How does she know so much about Thomas' fiancee? Seduction is her agenda, or is it? Rob Ruggiero directs this provocative game of temptation, more electrifying and involving than Eve's original encounter with Adam in the Garden of Eden.


For tickets ($50-63, student rush $17 when available), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Come early for the juried art show upstairs in the gallery courtesy of TheaterWorks and Paper New England, featuring art work by students in area colleges.


Never has a spider crafted a more insidious web than Vanda as she traps Thomas, the unsuspecting fly, in her diabolical game.


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