VENUS IN FURBy David Ives
Director – Krista Scott
Set Designer – Clare Floyd DeVries
Lighting Designer – John Leach
Costume Designer – Sarah Tonemah
Sound Designer – David H. M. Lambert
Stage Manager – Sarahi Salazar
Thomas – Chris Hury
Vanda - Allison Pistorius
Photos were taken by Leah Layman
Reviewed Performance: 2/1/2014
Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Severin, down on your bended knee
Taste the whip, in love not given lightly
Taste the whip, now plead for me”
- “Venus in Furs”, The Velvet Underground
“A play so good it hurts.” The tag line from the Broadway poster hints at the devilish delights in store for an audience of David Ives' Venus in Fur. Based on the German novel Venus im Pelz by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the play tells the tale of a playwright/director looking for the right actress to fill a role. The play he is casting is an adaptation of Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Fur, and for over ninety five uninterrupted minutes the director and actress act out the story together, becoming more entangled and ambiguous between what is the role they're playing and real life. Ives plays heavily with symbolism and metaphors throughout the play, further confusing the line between the real world of the play and the play-within-the play. However, through all the fine writing, the most basic and over-simplified description of the show is the story of a man who hires a dominatrix for an evening to act out a highly specific fetish. Circle Theatre's production is mildly humorous, intense, and highly sexy.
Circle Theatre's thrust stage realistically portrays a bare rehearsal studio, with a scarred wooden floor, lightweight folding furniture, and upright piano that has sat in the same corner since Bob Fosse was choreographing. It's almost surreal to see Clare Floyd DeVries’ set design perfectly mimic a scene many of us in theatre are familiar.
The lighting is simple but equally amazing. A large fluorescent tube harshly lights the more realistic scenes, while color changing LEDs set the transitioning mood throughout the majority of the play. Punctuated with some well-crafted lightning flashes, John Leach's design is a wonderful accent to the performance.
Sound design for Venus in Fur is a master class in subtlety. The play takes place on a stormy evening with the sound of rain bouncing off the windows of the rehearsal studio, underscoring the action happening in the real world. Thunder follows the lightening, as it should. However, with the most careful and gradual fade imaginable, the sound of rain disappears as the actors take on their roles in the reading. Just as nuanced, the sound of rain returns when they transition back to reality.
Chris Hury's simple costume at the start, khaki pants and a red sweater, is appropriate but not spectacular. However, it does juxtapose well with Allison Pistorius' hilariously misunderstood black leather and lace Vanda outfit. As the play being read, Venus in Furs, takes place in 1870, the period appropriate additions to their costumes exquisitely aid in blurring the lines between reality and make-believe. Sarah Tonemah's design is wonderful.
Both performers flow in and out of their dual characters with ease and grace, affecting appropriate accents. Chris Hury plays the fiery, bullying character, Thomas, with an inner desire only a character like Vanda can bring out. As Vanda, Allison Pistorius is a flighty but head strong character who always knows more than she seems. The two play off each other and generate an almost tangible amount sexual tension. Krista Scott's direction smartly keeps the two separated, not touching, for most of the play, making the moments they do touch that much more exciting and interesting until finally the two are nearly crawling all over each other, Vanda straddling Thomas in a chair or Thomas crawling between Vanda's legs to put her boots on her feet, while still denying the animal lust and attraction that is between them. Some audience members took to fanning themselves with the programs. With all the excellent support from the technical elements, these two turn in masterful performances that should not be missed.
Venus in Fur at Circle Theatre is a marvelous production of a fine play. Although it is certainly PG-13 in subject matter, and the written ending is mildly unsatisfying, audiences looking for an arousing and thought-provoking evening of theatre should certainly see this play.
Circle Theatre, 230 W 4th Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102
Runs through March 8th
Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday at 8:00 pm, and Saturday at both 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Tickets are $20.00-$30.00 on Thursdays and Saturday matinee, and $25.00-$35.00 on Friday and Saturday night. A special University Night is February 7th at 8:00pm.
Tickets will be $5.00 for students and $10.00 for staff.
Senior, student, military, KERA, Press Pass, S.T.A.G.E., and group discounts are available. Half price tickets for students are sold 30 minutes before show time, subject to availability.
For more info: www.circletheatre.com or call 817-877-3040.