“Venus in Fur” at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Poor despondent, done-in Thomas, he’s spent the day auditioning actresses for the title role in his new play, and not a one is up to the part. But then…a clap of thunder, lightening flashes outside the windows, and in walks the actress Vanda or is it actually Venus come to toy with a mortal? She enters on stiletto heels, spewing vitriol, clutching a broken umbrella, hours late for her audition for the title role in Thomas’s adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novel about a painting of Venus draped in fur.

Thomas has no time to mess with this creature, but he can’t get rid of her. She rants, she swears, she undresses, puts on a gown suitable to the late 19th C. and begins to weave her spell. Somehow she knows the entire erotic play, recites the words in mesmerizing fashion, encourages Thomas to play the male role.

What transpires is a power struggle, just as so much of life is, just as male/female relationships usually are, just as actor vs. director roles are. Thomas is author/director he should be in charge. He’s not. The unstoppable Vanda confidently takes control, moving back and forth between script and real life. All too soon she’s a dominatrix. There’s a whip; there’s a dog collar. And then, with another clap of thunder she’s gone.

You won’t fall asleep in David Ives’ one act, 90-minute play. Director Shana Cooper has been given a wonderful script to work with and she does well. Michael Tisdale’s Thomas is like a fish on a line. No matter how he struggles, Vanda reels him in. Gillian Williams as the sexy, sultry, Vanda is one in-charge woman.

Is the play within the play simply sexual titillation or is it a love story? Is there really such a difference? You’ll have to make up your own mind about that.

Through March 9, at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., (206 443-2222 or www.seattlerep.org)

Leave a Reply