Although it’s being sold as an erotic-comedy, The Edge Productions version of Venus in Fur is much more than that. The tense and sexually charged two-person play opened this past Thursday (Nov. 22) and runs until Dec. 2 at Sho Studios in Windsor.
To simply describe David Ives’ play as an erotic-comedy is also misleading. That simple description can conjure up images of dirty old men looking up skirts and naughty secretaries trying their best to seduce, but there is something darker, stranger and altogether more delicious going on here. It’s a study of the erotic and an example of ones power over another.
While this year Windsor’s has seen an interesting shift to the sexual and sexy, Venus in Fur is nothing like rest. One could easily expect a vast amount of nudity or vulgarity, but there isn’t any to be found minus a couple swear words. Instead the show dives deep into an exploration of S&M through a semi-erotic costume, some incredibly sensual movement and a whole lot of tense interaction.
In Venus in Fur, a young actress named Vanda (Taylor Brimmer) is determined to land the lead role in a new play based on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 19th century erotic novel Venus in Furs. During her audition, she gets caught up in an electrifying game of cat and mouse with the director, depicted through a sophisticated model of metatheatre.
Though utterly wrong for the part, Vanda exhibits a strange command of the material, piquing Thomas (Isaiah Kolundzic) interest with her seductive talents and secretive manner. As the two work through the script, they blur the line between play and reality, entering into an increasingly serious game of submission and domination.
In addition to its depiction of a deeply complex relationship, Ives’ play includes references to a myriad of related ancient and classical sources. Mentions of Greek mythology, ancient tragedies and Renaissance art enrich the piece and move it beyond a simple cat and mouse situation that the audience witnesses. Ultimately, Ives expertly offers a nearly complete survey.
We never actually get to see Taylor in anything less than lingerie, garters and black underwear, but she uses her sexuality like no one has this year – PERIOD. She owns the stage and even Isaiah, whom she slowly possesses throughout the show. She uses slow suggestive movements and a bit of attitude to get the sexy vibes flowing. In one intense scene, she has Isaiah put on a pair of knee-high leather boots that tie up as she lies seductively on a chaise while he does it. That scene just drips of sex – and it’s absolutely delicious.
As for comedy, there’s plenty of dark, deep and sexual comedy (some of which makes more sense as the play moves along and we see Vanda’s intentions). In an act of desperation at the beginning, Taylor roots around in her bag for a costume and then suddenly strips down to her saucy black lingerie, which is in complete contrast to when she uses the lingerie as a sexual weapon. Funny, thing is, when she’s dressed in her white dress and “acting” through the script, she’s stunning. The accent and presentation of the 19th-century European noblewoman is spot on and adorable. On the other hand, the sexually charged dominatrix is captivating, attractive and sometimes scary.
It’s basically a topsy-turvy game the entire show as Taylor wrestles between the incompetent actress and the S&M dominatrix we slowly meet. At one point, the two seamlessly meld together and we’re left with one of the most exhausting endings of any play we’ve had this year. There’s little doubt that Taylor and Isaiah earn marks for the most exhaustive roles this year. The duo is so worked up at the end, I’m surprised they’re not gasping for breath as the lights go down.
Taylor’s performance is so electrifying that a lesser talent than Isaiah might fade into the scenery. He slowly progresses from a masculine, almost disinterested director, to a completely weak submissive. By the end he seemed to actually enjoy Taylor’s verbal and humiliating servitude. It’s a great expose on the sexes, prejudice and control, but more importantly it easily shows how it all can be turned upside down in the blink of an eye.
Apart from clips in movies or TV shows, this play might actually be the first time some might actually see an aggressive act of domination. Although there are no sexy swings, pierced body parts or strange sexual acts, the dominatrix elements in the show are strong enough that some might be uncomfortable with the content, but for those who stick it out for the entire one-act show, it’s so mouthwateringly worth it.
Director Miriam Goldstein is never afraid to test her limits and because of works like Venus in Fur, some of those barriers are surely, but slowly breaking down. Much like the controversial Pregnancy Pact last year, this one is sure to provoke some conversation that most of us fear to discuss.
Venus in Fur continues this coming weekend at Sho Studios in Windsor, with performances on Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 1 at 8pm and Dec. 2 at 2pm.