Sunday, October 16, 2011
Venus in Fur **
After all the buzz about last year's off-Broadway production of David Ives' play, I arrived at Manhattan Theatre Club's Friedman Theater prepared for 90 minutes of kinky fun. Nina Ariadna, as the mysterious woman who arrives to audition for the role of Vanda in an adaptation of Sacher-Masoch's 1870 novel about sadomasochistic love, is sensational. She effortlessly commands the stage and captures all the character's many facets. My only complaint is that she swallowed a few lines. Hugh Dancy is fine as the playwright/director who is first scornful toward and then enthralled by her. The power balance of their relationship seesaws until the final revelation of her identity. Not even Ives' cleverness or Walter Bobbie's smooth direction is enough to keep the play from sagging for seemingly long stretches. John Lee Beatty's set is appropriately spartan and Anita Yavich's costumes are wonderful. Had this been a 30-minute sketch, I would have been thoroughly delighted, but at almost two hours, I found it tediously repetitive. The extra 10 or 15 minutes it picked up on the way uptown could not have improved it. I was delighted to get to see Ariadna and Dancy, but was disappointed in the play.