Venus in Fur is a 2012 Tony Award®-winning sizzler by David Ives, the prolific author of the famous “Phillip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread” and other short, witty plays with depth. Ninety minutes worth of allusions, verbal gymnastics, sexual innuendo, kinky references, and a bit of insight into gender wars, this joint Actors Comedy Lab and Raleigh Little Theatre production is a thoroughly delightful entertainment, presented in RLT‘s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre as part of Raleigh Little Theatre’s “City Series.”
Vanda, played by Diana Cameron McQueen, is an actress who really wants this part. Her audition for director Thomas (Tony Lea) comes at a bad time for him. He’s tired and discouraged with the auditions that he’s suffered through all day; and it is a very stormy evening, so he’s anxious to get home to his fiancée.
Venus in Fur is also the title of the play that Thomas is casting, and he needs an actress of finely toned experience and sophistication. Vanda doesn’t seem right for it. And therein lies the rest of the story.
As you might surmise, this is a play-within-a-play, and these actors flip from dialogue to conversation with surprising ease. There is no doubt when they are being real and when they are assuming the characters of Wanda (a subtle coincidence) and Severin, the penned lover.
Tony Lea started out a little slow on opening night, in a role that requires him to play a director who is an inexperienced actor, a tough job to pull off well to begin with; but Lea soon became swept up and gave a strong performance. His tenderness in the love scene where he drapes Vanda in a stole is heart warming.
Diana McQueen’s transition from ditzy, climbing, predatory actress to smoother-than-silk sophisticate is amazing, and she manages to flip between those personae with an ease that startles. Her vocal transitions are flawless. The interplay between the two with the words “extricable” and “explicable” is tantalizing.
Intermingled with all the fun is a curious examination of the power struggles that occur between the participants of a romantic relationship that may resonate with many in the audience.
The set is simple and sufficient, expertly defining the space, with the brilliant inclusion of a water pipe that hovers over the only egress on the stage, wonderfully conceived by Joncie Sarrat. The lighting, designed by Joshua C. Allen, is deftly and perfectly used to enhance the moods and drama, including Vanda’s manipulating of them for her own desires.
The precise timing and the total reality of the sounds of the storm are credited to John Maruca. Much of the story is being told through the costumes designed by Jenny Mitchell.
Director Rod Rich deserves many kudos for the pacing, blocking, and tensions of this show. There is truly never a dull moment, there is a sense of connectedness throughout, and the comic timing is spot on. Venus in Fur is a real treat for lovers, and has been so well received from just opening night that RLT executive director Charles Phaneuf has added a performance at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 25th. Demand for tickets is high, so be advised.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 19th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2015/01/19/4488205_mcqueen-leads-strong-venus-in.html; Jan. 18th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7188; and Jan. 14th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/venus-in-fur/Event?oid=4204823.
Actors Comedy Lab and Raleigh Little Theatre presents VENUS IN FUR at 8 p.m. Jan. 22-24, 3 and 8 p.m. Jan. 25, 8 p.m. Jan. 29-31, and 3 p.m. Feb. 1 in RLT‘s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $22 ($18 students and seniors 62+).
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/.
SHOW: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/14-15/venus.html and https://www.facebook.com/events/866684006688198/.
Actors Comedy Lab: http://www.actorscomedylab.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Actors-Comedy-Lab/201926916520429.
Raleigh Little Theatre: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre, https://twitter.com/RLT1936, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raleigh_Little_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/raleighlittletheatre.
RLT‘S 2014-15 SEASON: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/14-15/index.html.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25th, performance.
NOTE 3: Raleigh Little Theatre is partnering with North Carolina Museum of Art Contemporaries to present a wine tasting and show for young professionals, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 29th, in the lobby of RLT‘s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre. The Wine Feed will furnish the wines, and the Baguettaboutit gourmet food truck will be parked outside the theater from 6 to 8 p.m. for anyone wishing to purchase food. For details, click here.
Venus in Fur (2010 Off-Broadway and 20111 Broadway comedy): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=4298 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=490532 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_in_Fur (Wikipedia).
David Ives (Chicago, IL-born playwright and screenwriter): https://www.playscripts.com/playwrights/bios/445 (Playscripts, Inc.), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=9621 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0412328/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Ives (Wikipedia).
Rod Rich (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/rod.rich.33 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.