You can get sassy and sexy simply by cracking open a copy of an E.L. James novel, but if you want smart too you’ve got to head down to Granville Island for the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Venus in Fur.
Having spent the day auditioning young actresses for his new play, an adaptation of the 1870 novel “Venus in Furs” which originally inspired the term “masochism”, playwright and director Thomas Novachek hasn’t found the right actor to fill the role of his lead character. As Novachek prepares to leave for the night a young actor, who just so happens to share the same first name as the character, arrives on the scene. At first dismissed as just another wannabe, Vanda convinces him to read with her, gradually showing some astonishing insights into the novel, the play and her character. As the duo work through the script, the power shifts a number of times until eventually Vanda comes out on top.
It is in these numerous power shifts that Venus in Fur finds its biggest strength. From Novacheck’s borderline misogynistic attitude at the start to seeing the tables completely turned at the end, playwright David Ives has woven a battle of the sexes that simply flies by in its short 90 minutes. And while any production starts with Ives’ intelligent script, it is up to the two actors to bring it to life on stage and in this Arts Club production, Lindsey Angell and Vincent Gale are simply riveting.
Arriving in an already revealing leather dress, Angell quickly strips down to nothing more than fishnets, garters and bustier and slips between Vanda/Wanda as easily as she slips into her thigh-high leather stiletto boots. Gale fights effectively against our natural allegiance to Vanda and his role as straight man. The tension and chemistry between the two is at times electric.
Director David Mackay helps create a wonderful dance between his two actors, pulling them apart when necessary and pushing them together in intimate ways. John Webber’s realistic set is as dominating as Vonda/Wanda and while it works it would be interesting to see how the dynamics might change inside a more intimate setting.
With its dense and clever dialogue that switches brilliantly and at times seamlessly between the real world and the world of the play-within-a-play, Venus in Fur has the ability to leave both actor and audience spent. And while you may not reach for a smoke when it is over, it will linger in your head a lot longer than any encounter between Ana and Christian ever will.
By David Ives. Directed by David Mackay. An Arts Club Theatre Company production. On stage at the Granville Island Stage through November 2, 2013. Visit http://artsclub.com for tickets and information.