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Venus in Fur

Venus in Fur

By David Ives

Directed by Peg O’Keefe

Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL</strong>

For a first reading, Vanda (Piper Patterson) did one hell of a job. She may have been late to the audition and the worst stereotype of a modern-day actress Thomas (Tim Williams) ever saw, but she brought props and costumes and a deeper knowledge of the source material than Thomas suspected. And that source material is Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s “Venus in Fur,” often regarded as the first piece of Sado-masochistic literature. Thomas adapted to stage and is now directing it, perhaps not the best position for a man of his limited experience. She reads in character, he reads back as a writer, she drags him into reading in character as well until she stops and reverts to Valley Girl speak. Hey, just minute – she’s off book already! All that’s missing is the birch cane, the fur and boots and dog collars are already at hand. Before long, you realize: “He’s into this, isn’t he?” and he is. When his fiancé calls, Vanda calls someone else as well showing sexual power politics can be fought with cell phones just as well as with whips and bondage gear. As the story unfolds, a thunder storm rages and Vanda is unveiled as the goddess Aphrodite, and as we leaned earlier, no one messes with a Goddess.

As a back stage show this has plenty of in-jokes but “Venus in Fur” never drifts from its 50 shades of meaning: You can dominate from a position of power, and you can dominate from a position of weakness, so long as you know what you are willing to endure. Williams is superb as a great actor acting like a bad one, and Patterson is excellent as the naughty yet nice servant come to do someone’s bidding. There’s an open end to this story: while Vanda may be a goddess, she may also just be an ambitious actress with more skill than she reveals, or perhaps the secret mirror of Thomas’s mind. She might even be Thomas’s fiancée, but that doesn’t explain the phone calls. There’s an element of prurience here, it’s almost like discovering your dad’s dirty magazines, and you not sure why that girls is taped the way she is and it’s oddly …interesting. “Venus in Furs” shows exactly why.

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