VENUS IN FUR by David Ives, Bootless Stageworks’ second show of 2014, is a pretty production for small spaces. The more the audience can feel like a fly on the wall, the better, and the black box at OperaDelaware works exceedingly well for this. The tiny theater space has been “inverted” with the audience entering through the back door, and the front door utilized as part of the set, which could almost be mistaken as an actual workspace in the room. The inverted setup not only works very well with the play, it also gives the space its own feel — the space is the regular home to the City Theater Company, but it doesn’t feel like the CTC space (quite a feat, actually, since CTC alerts the space for every show).
VENUS IN FUR is a two-actor play about a playwright-slash-director named Thomas trying to cast his first play, also called VENUS IN FUR, an adaptation of the xx novel. After an off-scene string of auditions of young women who just don’t fit, a woman named Vanda (coincidentally, the name of the character), bursts in just as he’s leaving and insists on auditioning. Though he sees her as the same type of actress he’s been auditioning all day (who were all, according to to the rather sexist Thomas, dumb and vapid), she talks him into letting her read with him, and the sexual power play in Thomas’ adaptation comes to life, quite literally.
The play opens unconventionally, with Sean Gallagher (creator and star of the webseries “Find Love, NYC”) as Thomas milling around the lit office set as the audience settles in. He reads, shuffles papers, watches the rain fall outside his window before, with the audience finally rapt in attention and without introduction, he starts talking on the phone about the awful auditions he’s endured all day. Gallagher fits the role of Thomas well — he comes across as a nice guy everyman, but even in his phone chat, you can see that there’s something darker lurking.
Kelly Warne’s entrance as Vanda is an explosion — she’s loud, she’s brash, she undresses into a tiny dominatrix outfit as Thomas tells her to leave, and she swears a lot. Vanda doesn’t come off as dumb, but Thomas clearly sees her that way, and she doesn’t discourage it. Her wide-eyed questions about the play make it seem like all she knows is, it’s “porn,” which Thomas quickly disagrees with. Warne is an incredible Vanda, funny (very funny — no surprise, as she is a stand-up comedian and star of the comic webseries “Coffee Shop Show”) and instantly changeable. That’s a must, because Vanda switches gears from her brash “real” personality to the subdued, sophisticated Vanda of VENUS IN FUR.
It’s an enthralling show that has as much to do with literary interpretation as it does sex. If you’re not familiar with David Ives’ play, it’s best to go in not knowing too much about Vanda and Thomas and where their swiftly heated relationship is headed. The play is 90 minutes, no intermission, and it flies by.
VENUS IN FUR
by David Ives
Directed By Rosanne DellAversano
March 13 – 22, 2014
4 South Poplar Street
Wilmington, DE 19801