Review by Tulis McCall
26 Jan 2010
A Star is born. That was the main thought running through my head. “Oh. A star is being born.” The quite extraordinary Nina Arianda gives a performance that should knock her career into the stratosphere.
This play with the horrible title, Venus In Fur, is part comedy, part satire, part psychological suspense. After a dull day in Auditionville, Thomas (Wes Bentley) the author of Venus In Fur, is despondent and about to head home. Into his office blasts the lovely Vanda (Nina Arianda) who is brimming with New York chutzpa, drive and desperation. She is hurtling so fast that she hardly notices herself being rejected as completely wrong for the part for which she is auditioning. Vanda’s velocity combined with force of will eventually overcome our author who, after watching several hilarious stumbles and glitches, reluctantly agrees to hear Vanda read.
Of course, when she reads she is spot on. No surprise to us after the lead-in.
What does come as a surprise is the way the play unravels and the characters with it. A charming audition spins its way into something that is sexual, sinister and seductive. From the beginning of the audition these two people are engaged in the text and with each other. It is as though each of them holds one end of a rope and has been directed to keep hold no matter what. Time passes, and instead of ending the audition, they drag it out, and out, and out. As they drag it out Vanda digs into Thomas’s personal life and leaves a trail of questions in her wake. Who is Vanda really? Why does she show up? What does she want?
All fairly important questions in dramatic structure, none of which are answered. An enormous oops. David Ives is content with raising questions and creating subplots with no attention to resolution in any form. As a matter of fact, the play ends with such an abrupt bang, which is also how it begins, that we are left stunned. As if a door had been slammed in our collective faces. As if the last pages of the script were lost on a subway and nobody found out until too late so they just said, “Okay, let’s end it here with a blackout.” A disappointing choice that leaves the audience in wonder – and not the good kind.
In spite of the mighty holes in the plot, Arianda spins out her part like a coloratura. She shifts from being awkward to beautiful, from desperate to delightful, from funny to frightening like a sorceress. The same cannot be said for her partner. As it is , Bentley is mildly interesting, but opposite Ariana mildly interesting doesn’t cut it. Would that a more competent actor could have been cast so that the sparks that fly would have had more color.
No matter. In this case the play’s not the thing wherein you will catch all that much. It is the place, however, where this wonderful actor dwells – and that is a very big deal. If you want to see a young woman who has worked hard and knows her craft – get thee to Venus, pronto.
What the popular press said...
"90 minutes of good, kinky fun."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"Remember the name — Nina Arianda. In "Venus in Fur," she proves herself to be a comic goddess." & "though filled with zingers, gets repetitive midway and leads to a lame conclusion."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"It's exciting, but a challenge: Only masterful actors at the top of their game could keep it all together - .. the ones here struggle to keep up.
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"Devastatingly surreal examination of sex and power."
David Sheward for Back Stage
Jennifer Farrar for Associated Press
"Take(s) all the fun out of sexual power games in "Venus in Fur" by talking the subject to death."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...