John Sbordone, City Repertory Theatre’s artistic director, continues to reach out, far beyond community theater’s normal restraints. His latest, “Venus in Fur,” by the noted contemporary American playwright David Ives, is laced with (often hilarious) masochistic dynamite. With only six performances, Feb. 13-15 and 20-22, tickets will be scarce. You’d be wise to order yours without delay. And consider wearing your axiological flak jacket.
Ives was inspired to write “Venus in Fur” by the notorious 1950 erotic French novel, “Histoire d’O” (“Story of O”), a woman who, from the very first page, masochistically accedes to her lover’s demands for various kinds of sexual submission.
Unlike “Story of O,” “Venus in Fur” sparks with the friction of two buttoned-up people in an erotic power play, who challenge, resist and disagree with each other even while bound by mutual sexual attraction.
Action takes place in a bare room where a director/adaptor, Tom Novachek, exhausted from a day of auditioning, and failing to select any of 35 aspirants for the role of Vanda for his adaptation of “Venus in Fur,” prepares to go home. A violent thunderstorm rages outside.
A bedraggled, brassy young woman, Wanda Jordan, bursts in. She’s in a sopping wet trench coat (over a dominatrix outfit). She pleads for a chance to audition. Tom relents — “but only through page 3.” Ha!
As soon as she starts to read, she’s no longer Wanda but Vanda, a measured woman with impeccable Continental diction. As we watch, Thomas becomes more and more powerless in the presence of Vanda’s seductive energy. Ultimately, methodically and abrasively, Vanda outs him as a masochist.
Getting to the climax of the play is no simple matter, requiring superb, nuanced acting. Annie Gaybis, probably this region’s supreme dramatic actress, is Wanda/Vanda. However sublime her Eliza Doolittle cockney-street-urchin-to-high-society-princess may have been, her “Venus in Fur” clearly eclipses it. She attacks this dream role with gusto.
And Eric Bohus, fresh from his electrifying role in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” delivers absolute believability, inevitable enthrallment with Vanda’s allure. The chemistry generated between them is undeniable.
Ah! The age-old battle of the sexes, with some awesome twists. “Venus in Fur” is a great theater experience.
City Repertory Theatre is at 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite 207. Call 585-9415 or visit crtpalmcoast.com.