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February 19th, 2010

Venus in Fur

Tuesday night, we braved the (very light) snow and went down to 13th Street to see Venus in Fur at the Classic Stage Company.

And I'm so glad we did.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect of a stage adaptation of Sacher-Masoch's classic S&M novel, to be honest.  Possibly titillating, possibly embarrassing.  Almost certainly slightly distasteful in its depiction of women as cruel and cold and yet somehow entirely focused on the formal humiliation of the suppliant male.

I was so wrong.  Venus in Fur is an intelligent, thoughtful, funny, and slightly disturbing study of power, gender politics, class, and who is really getting his needs met in a traditionally constructed S&M relationship.  It is also, in my opinion, a feminist play written by someone who understands that men and women are fully human, fallible, and moral creatures who don't always make the right choices even when they're genuinely trying to.

The argument of the play is the audition, by the playwright, of an actress to play the female lead in his adaptation of Sacher-Masoch's novel.  Anything more I say about what happens and why will reveal things you may not want revealed, so I won't say them.  Except that Nina Arianda (who plays Vanda, Vonda, and possibly Venus) displays an incredible range, from ditzy actress to goddess to playful girl.  And that Wes Bently (who plays the playwright and the Count in search of a goddess to worship) manages to be (believably) simultaneously vulnerable and arrogant, which is a neat trick.  They play beautifully off each other, too.

It was supposed to close this Sunday, but has been extended until March 28.  Tickets are available on TDF, and, since this is way Off-Broadway we're talking about, aren't all that pricey to begin with.  Go if you can.  It's a smart play.  It uses language well.  And, considering its subject matter and its undoubted hotness, is not at all blush-making.  All of which make it rare and precious and a thing to be encouraged.

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