David Ives’ 2010 Off-Broadway and 2011 Broadway hit Venus in Fur depicts the zaniest-ever theater audition; and Moonlight Stage Company of Raleigh, NC affords ringside seats for a superb production of Venus in Fur.
When the curtain rises, playwright/director Thomas Novachek (Patrick Osteen) is frustrated, because he simply cannot find the right leading lady to play “Wanda von Dunayev” (pronounced Vonda) in the upcoming production of his new play; he’s tired and ready to call it a day. Suddenly, a bubbly, energetic, and beautiful (but somewhat nerdy, clumsy, and seemingly inept) actress named Vanda Jordan (Ali Evarts) bursts into his office and practically demands an audition (which he reluctantly allows).
What ensues is a fast, funny, and sexy tug-of-war between the two. Who is this Vanda (also pronounced Vonda)? And how did she become so intimately familiar with Novachek’s play (and with the novel upon which it is based)?
She convinces Novachek to read opposite her in the audition, and they both “become the characters,” slipping in-and-out of the reality the audition and the alternate reality of the script.
But: Who is in control? The dynamic of their relationship is constantly shifting. How could this possibly end?
Note: If you ever wondered about the origin of the word “masochist,” prepare to be edified.
Director Katie Paxton could not have done a better job of casting. Patrick Osteen’s Novacheck morphs back-and-forth between “appropriately all-business” and “somewhat intrigued,” at some points becoming “thoroughly enthralled.”
Ali Evarts is a true delight as Vanda. When the nervous Vanda first bursts in, the butterflies-in-her-stomach are so apparent that they are almost actually visible. And the instantaneous shifts from actor to character and back again are phenomenal. As if that were not enough, Evarts is definitely an eyeful, spending a great deal of the show dressed in what ought to win 2020’s “Triangle Area Theater’s Sexiest Costume” (if such an award existed).
The program does not credit a technical crew, but one would suspect that Moonlight Stage Company’s producing artistic director Estes Tarver had a hand in creating the present-day “rented studio space in New York City” (in which the action takes place) as well as the sound-and lighting effects (which include the imaginative use of ordinary fluorescent lights at times!).
As always, the intimate, in-your-lap staging makes everything even more of a delight.
From the Department of Picky-Picky (More
Aptly Named Picayune-Picky in This Case):
The dialogue refers, at one point, to “a pair of stockings,” but the actual prop used is a pair of pantyhose.
The Bottom Line:
This production of Venus in Fur is well worth seeing. Seating is limited, so act quickly.
The play runs a delightful 90 minutes (without intermission), so there will be time afterwards to talk, laugh, and think about it. ALSO: there is a 10:30 p.m. “late show” on Friday, March 13th, in case you prefer something this delicious as a finale to your night out.
SECOND OPINION: March 6th Raleigh, NC Chatham Life & Style review by Naveed Moeed, who awarded the show 4 stars out of 5: https://chathamlifeandstyle.com/features-%26-reviews/f/theatre-review-venus-in-fur-is-not-your-moms-fifty-shades.
The Moonlight Stage Company presents VENUS IN FUR at 7:30 p.m. March 12, 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. March 13, and 8 p.m. March 14 at 1304 Paddock Dr., Suite 12F, Raleigh, North Carolina 27609.
BOX OFFICE: 919-307-4185, firstname.lastname@example.org, and https://www.moonlightstageco.com/events-newworks-sketchshow (scroll down).
SHOW: https://www.moonlightstageco.com/events-newworks-sketchshow and https://www.facebook.com/events/2878533028876025/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.facebook.com/MoonlightStageCo/videos/150677576020966/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: https://www.moonlightstageco.com/, https://www.facebook.com/MoonlightStageCo/, https://www.instagram.com/moonlightstageco/, and https://twitter.com/moonlight_stage.
Venus in Fur (2010 Off-Broadway and 2011 Broadway comedy and 2013 film): https://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=4298 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://iobdb.com/Production/4995 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/venus-in-fur-490532 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2406252/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_in_Fur (play) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_in_Fur_(film) (film) (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: https://www.canadianstage.com/ArticleMedia/Files/shows_tickets/13_14/Venus_in_Fur_studyguide.pdf (Canadian Stage of Toronto, ON).
David Ives (Chicago, IL-born playwright and screenwriter): https://groveatlantic.com/author/david-ives/ (Grove Atlantic bio), https://www.playscripts.com/playwrights/bios/445 (Playscripts, Inc. bio), http://iobdb.com/CreditableEntity/4118 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/david-ives-9621 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0412328/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Ives (Wikipedia).
Katie Paxton (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.moonlightstageco.com/teachers (Moonlight Stage Company bio) and https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2731684 (Facebook page).
Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.