Providence Players of Fairfax presents David Ives’ Venus in Fur, a provocative two-person play-within-a-play. In partnership with Falls Church’s Italian Café, this intimate pop-up captivates, thrills, and transfixes its audience. Jimmy Gertzog directs this commanding piece, and the raw, riveting performances are sure to linger with you long after you’ve gone.
Since Providence Players usually perform at a much larger venue (James Lee Community Center), one may wonder at first why they moved this particular production to a much smaller space. Staged in a reserved wing of a bustling restaurant, the actors are so close to their audience that one could easily reach out and touch them. However, if any play could thrive in an intimate space, it would be this one. The performances demand a certain tension, a beguiling of sorts, that wouldn’t be nearly as effective or powerful in a larger venue. Lighting and sound by Chip Gertzog completes the atmosphere with effects that marvel!
Director and playwright Thomas Novachek (Ari Post) is on the phone with his fiancée after auditioning a number of women for the lead role in his play (an adaptation of the 1870 novel Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch). Exasperated, he laments about how no one was poised enough for the role, and is unimpressed by the young, “vapid” actresses who have auditioned. As if she were summoned, Vanda Jordan (Andra Whitt) bursts onto the stage in a manic whirl. It instantly becomes very clear that Vanda is exactly the opposite of what Thomas is looking for. Energetic, vulgar, and brash, she talks a mile-a-minute and bulldozes his attempts to dismiss her. Assertive and pushy, she wears him down until he allows her to audition, with him reading lines opposite her. What follows is a master class in power dynamics, with life imitating art in more ways than one.
Ari Post and Andra Whitt make a powerhouse pair. Each brings a charisma that feeds off of the other, and their energy reverberates through the space like an electric shock. While the material is raw and emotional, it’s also full of memorable comedic moments, jerking the tone from edgy and tense to flirtatious and lighthearted, and then back again. By the end, you almost feel emotionally drained, as if wrung out like a damp cloth. This is, of course, the whole point. One could spend the whole rest of the evening combing through the dense symbolism in this piece, so if you like thought-provoking material that inspires lively post-show debate, then this is a must-see.
Providence Players of Fairfax’s Venus in Fur is a riveting night of entertainment. The actors easily enchant the audience, and in a play that explores domination and power struggle, that irony is not lost on me. Be sure to keep an eye out for this talented troupe’s future productions!
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
Venus in Fur, presented by Providence Players of Fairfax, plays through February 8, 2020, at Italian Café, 7161 Lee Highway, Falls Church, VA. Tickets for all remaining performances are now sold out.
Advisory: Adult language and themes; not suitable for children.