Steamy, provocative ‘Venus in Fur’ at 2nd Story
See it.by Don Fowler, Warwick Beacon
“This is not your grandmother’s summer stock,” director Ed Shea told the audience before the lights dimmed for the 75-minute production of David Ives’ “Venus in Fur.”
Shea is an Ives fan, having produced a number of his one-act plays in the days of 2nd Story’s Short Attention Span Theatre.
“Venus in Fur” is pay-attention-span theatre, offering the audience a play with a play consisting of two characters who slide between reality and the audition for a play.
Richard Derry plays Thomas, a writer/director who is exhausted after a day of auditioning actresses for his adaptation of a sadomasochistic novel.
Thomas is on his way home to his girlfriend when a sexy, vulgar actress bursts in asking to read for the part of Vanda, a sexy, vulgar seductress. What starts as an innocent reading turns into an evening of seduction as a strange relationship develops between the two.
Vanda (Lara Hakeem) seems to know the words of the play by heart, and she also seems to know more about Thomas and his girlfriend than she lets on.
When does the play end and reality take over? What is reality? Who is this strange woman and what does she really want? At one point, I thought she might be the figment of Thomas’ imagination.
The action all takes place with a bare room, with a skylight that allows the lightning to be seen and heard at peak times, creating a surreal atmosphere.
The byplay between the characters changes as both reach for power at different times. It is a tale of domineering and submission that will challenge your intellect and emotions.
The acting is superb, especially by Hakeem, who is proving to be one of the top actors on the Rhode Island scene. Vanda is not an easy role to play. It requires moving from one character to playing the role of another character, being funny, physical, seductive and crass. Hakeem has what it takes to make you seduced by her every move.
“Venus in Fur” is at times puzzling, challenging, hilarious, dark and very different from anything I have ever seen. See it.