The first thing you need to know about Golden Apple Theatre’s production of Venus in Fur is that it takes places on a dark and stormy night.
Much has been made of the play’s erotic charge, its rapid-fire profanity and its dabbling in S&M conventions, but its greatest act of daring may be the thunderclaps that punctuate the dialogue. Never mind the boots and dog collars – it’s plenty fun to watch the talented cast and crew execute such a knowing play without hitting (as far as I can tell) a single false note.
A mutant adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novel, Venus in Fur takes place over the course of an evening in an audition room. Playwright Thomas (Daniel Arnold) is seeking an actress to play Vanda, the female lead in his adaptation of von Sacher-Masoch’s book. Frustrated and bored to the point of contempt with the women who’ve come through his door that day, he’s ready to head home when Vanda (Amy Matysio) bursts in.
Unscheduled, unsophisticated and apparently untalented, Vanda pleads for a chance. Thomas eventually gives in, only to find himself beguiled by Vanda’s strange command of the material. It soon becomes clear that Vanda is not quite who she claims to be. Thomas’ claims about his own identity may be similarly suspect – except in his case, Thomas is primarily lying to himself.
Venus in Fur is funny, erotic, provocative and massively entertaining, but it’s a delicate play; in the wrong hands, the increasing tension and constantly shifting registers could tip over into campy humour. Director Jim Guedo coaxes out the script’s strength by bringing out focused and sure-footed performances from Arnold and Matysio. Regina theatre goers will be familiar with Matysio and her improv-trained wit and strong physical performances, but here she’s given the chance to shine, switching roles and accents with dazzling confidence. David Arnold performs in a slightly lower key (he doesn’t spend any time in lacy black underwear, which puts him at a disadvantage) but he does a fantastic job of portraying of a man who is undone by his inability to recognize his own desires.
Oh yeah, and it’s really sexy. So go see it.
Venus in Fur runs March 5-22 at the Artesian on 13th. Tickets are available at Bach and Beyond, Cobb Swanson Music and Mysteria. $35 for adults, $25 for students, and worth every nickel. But don’t bring in a pile of nickels, that’s tremendously inconvenient.