Friday, October 11, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Venus in Fur

Vincent Gale, Lindsey Angell (photo by David Cooper)

A Positively Riveting Performance by Ms. Angell
An intellectual battle of the sexes.

by David C. Jones

There are so many twists and changes and reveals in this show I don’t want to give anything away. It’s a handsome and stylish production of a 2010 award-winning script by David Ives that is being produced all across North America. The brilliant David Mackay directs it and he has cast the two-hander with great actors.

Thomas Novachek has just finished a round of auditions for a play that he wrote based on an 1870 novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. The story concerns sadomasochism and the sophisticated yet passionate people who engage. He is ranting on the phone because all the actresses he has seen can’t come close to the class and mystery of the lead character Wanda von Dunajew.

They keep reading and the power dynamics shift and switch.
In the midst of a rainstorm with its suspiciously timed thunder and lightning claps enters Vanda Jordan, vulgar, tacky and very funny. She berates Thomas into letting her read for the part and when she does she is surprisingly great.

Clad in corset and fishnets she reads with Thomas and they occasionally stop to debate the roles of women and men and power. They keep reading and the power dynamics shift and switch. Where it all ends up is wild and sort of mythical literate.

The set, a re-purposed warehouse by designer John Webber is huge and holds secrets. The sound by Brian Linds is effectively shocking. Christine Reimer’s costumes are slick and fun.

The very verbose script is handled with aplomb by the cast. They explore the darkest of sexual domination while landing the comedy. Vincent Gale is a very demanding and needy Thomas but I could not take my eyes off of Lindsey Angell.

She is goofy and brass and then powerful and lusty, how she flips back and forth between the actress and the character is remarkable. Without giving anything away there is a third layer she is navigating and that makes the performance all the more remarkable. She is fascinating when she is just listening; it’s truly quite riveting.

Although I suspect this show will not be to everyone’s taste, based on the enthusiastic response on opening night there is definitely an audience. To be sure though – although they talk about punishment and domination and although she is wearing heels and fishnets there is no BDSM porn on stage. This is more threat than attack, more intellectual than physical.

This show is for fans of acting. This show is for fans of words. This show is for readers of literature who need more spanking in their life. 

Venus in Fur runs to November 2 

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