by Lorie Lewis Ham
Venus in Fur opened this past weekend at the CalArts Severance Theater in Fresno. If you are looking for a very unique theatre experience, you won’t want to miss this show, which plays through October 17.
Venus in Fur is actually a play within a play. In this show, writer/director Thomas Novacheck is casting his play, which is adapted from the 1820 novel Venus in Furs, a novel that happened to have inspired the term Masochism. Thomas is about to give up for the day as he has been unable to find the right person to play the lead actress in his show. At the last minute, another actress bursts in insisting on still getting to audition even though she is very late. She oddly shares the same first name as the main character in his play, Vanda. Thomas eventually gives in, perhaps as much to get rid of this seemingly emotionally unstable and not so bright actress, as anything. But when she begins to audition, everything starts to change.
I won’t share with you any more of the story as half the fun of this show is watching it unfold and all of the many twists and turns, leading to a very surprising, but perfect, ending. Venus in Furs (which Thomas’ play is based on) is an erotic novel, which definitely involves what would now be considered S&M, so you can imagine what the scenes are like when Vanda is auditioning. The show is sexy, and at times a bit disturbing. It also has many light, funny moments to it, and some very serious ones that make you think as well.
Brooke Aiello is explosive in this intense role that has her character bouncing all over the place from sensual, to funny, to crazy, to innocent, to throwing F bombs all over the stage. Terry Lewis plays Thomas and his character’s emotions and actions are also all over the place as he bounces back and forth between the “director” Thomas and the character in his play that he reads for with Vanda for her audition. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an actor play so many different types of roles all rolled up into one. These two make this show for me–they were just plain amazing!
J. Daniel Herring’s direction is the icing on this cake, you can always count on him to get the best out of everyone and add all the right touches to make for a flawless show. The set is simple, but some of the things they do with it are anything but–keep an eye on the mirror.
This may be the most unique show I’ve seen this year. While it definitely is not something to take your kids or your grandma to, if you are looking for some adult theatre fun that is amazingly executed, don’t miss your chance to see Venus in Fur this week. It will be playing for three more performances at the CalArts Severance Theater, 1401 N Wishon Ave. in Fresno. Tickets are $15 and available online at FresnoVenusInFur.bpt.me.
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