“Venus in Fur,” a play and film adapted from a novel by
the Austrian writer Leopold von Cacher-Masoch has been
Off-Broadway, On-Broadway and is presently playing in the
Milwaukee Rep’s Steimke Studio.
It is a
fascinating dance of two characters - a playwright and an
actor - but soon becomes a quartet of four characters. It is a
play within a play, and both are fascinating.
squeamish among you, the play touches on the subject of
sadomasochism, a sexual behavior chosen by some, but it is
really more about power and how it is a shifting reality in
intimate relationships between men and women. The battle of
the sexes has become a clichˇ for a reason. It is alive and
well and ongoing.
playwright, is auditioning young, beautiful women to play the
part of Vanda in his new play, “Venus in Fur.” After an
exhausting day trying to find a suitable actor, he complains
to his fiancˇe on the phone that young women are shallow and
childish and ditzy. His superiority comes across in this
substantial thunderstorm, in bursts Vanda, a dazzling blond,
soaked and gutsy. It turns out that she didn’t even have an
appointment, but there is something about her that is
compelling enough to convince Thomas to let her read some
scenes. She insists that he join her, and the game is on.
audition continues, he discovers that beneath her seemingly
vacuous fa¨ade lurks an intelligent, accomplished woman. She
shifts back and forth between herself and the character,
challenging the playwright at every turn about his work and
his personal life. He insists that the play he has written
does not mirror his personal beliefs about the relationship
between men and women, but she insists that we cannot
completely divorce ourselves from our creations. Even the way
an actor executes a role will reveal something about the
personality of the actor. I can’t remember who said it, but
the line, “Who you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear
what you say” came to mind as I watched this play.
Madigan and Greta Wohlrabe are both good choices for their
roles, but she is more mesmerizing and powerful than he.
Perhaps the play is written to underline the fact that women
are quite powerful, too, though men seem to dominate the
world. Many provocative ideas are tossed about. Some people
dominate; others want to be dominated. It’s an interesting
costumes designed by Rachel Laritz are marvelous, and Wohlrabe
looks smashing in all of them. The relatively barren set
design by Scott Davis serves as a fitting backdrop for the
struggling artist and puts all the emphasis on the action and
and sound by Aimee Hanyzewski and Joe Cerqua also enhance the
starkness and tension inherent in the script.
in Fur” is a fascinating duel between a playwright and an
actor and a man and a woman, each taking turns exerting their
power. It’s a play one could encounter many times and walk
away with something different each time. Kudos to David Ives,
clever playwright, and to Laura Gordon, very skilled director.
runs through Nov. 3 in the Steimke Studio at 108 E. Wells St.,
Milwaukee. Call 414-291-9490 or visit www.MilwaukeeRep.com for
show times and tickets.