BY TAMARA BECK
SADO-MASOCHISM is not just a pornographic trope. It plays out in any relationship in which one person has an upperhand.
“Venus in Fur,” enjoying an extended Broadway run and transfer at the Lyceum Theatre through 17 June, has none of the whips and chains associated with the S&M oeuvre. The battle of the sexes in David Ives’ Tony-nominated play simply takes on a highbrow kink.
Vanda takes the coincidence of the names as a sign as she enters Thomas’ studio amid claps of thunder. She is late for the tryouts and curses the weather and the trains. Thomas wants to go home, but Vanda cajoles and bullies him into letting her read for the part. (See video above).
The gothic touches of melodrama, like the storm that makes the lights blink on Vanda’s entrance, add to the mesmerizing effect of “Venus in Fur.” Walter Bobbie’s direction creates as much tension in the silences as it finds in the dialogue. “Venus in Fur” is funny and dramatic.
Nina Arianda as Vanda and Hugh Dancy as Thomas in "Venus in Fur." Photo by Joan Marcus.
It’s a play-within-a-play, as Thomas and Vanda tease out the script of his adaptation; the process brings out NA’s fire and lightning. Vanda Jordan completely transforms herself into Vanda von Dunajew. NA moves seamlessly between two very different women, a sloppy modern girl and a sophisticated 19th-century aristocratic freethinker.
NA, a best actress nominee for her role as Vanda was also nominated for her Broadway debut last year in “Born Yesterday.” In the latter work she played the stupid-smart Billie. But make no mistake, NA has not been typecast, though Vanda is also a stupid-smart character. So much of her range is on display in “Venus in Fur.” She giggles and roars; is polished and vulgar, cute and endearing, and, of course, sexy.
Like her character, NA will not be denied. She is a whirl of energy, circling the stage, pouncing on HD's hapless, misogynistic Thomas. The young man is also a pedantic prig for whom the fetishized is dreary rather than lighthearted. Thomas responds to Vanda in reasoned tones; he is not having fun.
Thomas resists, but both the Dunajewa and Vanda Jordan have his number. She leads, he follows.
Visit http://www.venusinfurbroadway.com/index.html to learn more about “Venus in Fur.”