The Asolo’s Repertory Theatre’s latest production is a delightfully provocative Rubik’s Cube of a play-within-a-play, based on a manuscript-within-a-book, written in 1870 by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, after whom the term, “masochism,” was coined.
Tea Alagic, acclaimed New York director and artist, directs playwright David Ives’ “Venus in Fur” within an inch of its life. The audience hangs on every word, agog between laughter and suspense. The basic plot concerns an actress who arrives late for an audition to find only the writer/director still in the office. Eventually, she persuades him to let her audition anyway. What follows is a witty, edgy and often ribald exploration of the eternal dance of power and sexuality between man and woman, as well as director and actress. The two-person play is an actor’s dream, requiring them to whipsaw between period and contemporary characters and amaze us with their mastery of each, which these two do quite skillfully, excelling at every demand of the rich dialogue.
Sarah Nealis plays auditioning Vanda; and Scott Kerns plays Thomas, a writer/director who has adapted “Venus in Furs,” a novelette about a ma n who gets his wish to be dominated by a woman he adores. The pair engages in an intellectual and emotional pas de deux, which is sensual, but not to an uncomfortable degree. Both actors deliver dynamic, surprising and utterly satisfying performances.
It’s an intimate play and well suited to the cozy confines of the Historic Asolo Theater. The set design by Andrew Boyce perfectly recreates a small block-walled New York studio/rehearsal space, which includes an all-important chaise longue. Sarah Pickett’s sound design provides rain, plot-turning phone calls and facetious claps of thunder, with the accompanying lighting supplied by Matthew Richards. Costume designer Emily Rebholz provides a trunk full of period costumes as well as some leather and lace.
If you go
“Venus in Fur” runs through April 28, at Historic Asolo Theater. For more information, call 351-8000.