The encounter begins sort of innocuously: a rainy afternoon, a frustrated director and a frantic actress. But situations can turn on a dime, and for the characters in David Ives’ Venus in Fur at Actor’s Express, everything will turn inside out several times before the end. Directed by David Crowe, the brilliant comedy takes the audience on a joy ride through passion, power and sexual tension.
While on the surface, it may seem like a play about eroticism and S & M behavior, and yes, those aspects are there, but the play is so much more than that. Ives explores power and how power can shift in relationships. It touches on feminism, sexism, passion, art and pain. Each topic rests delicately balanced on a tightly woven tapestry of fast-paced dialogue that shifts from the play-in-the-play to the play at breakneck speed.
While seemingly simple, the characters are extremely complex with subtle behaviors that manifest throughout the production. This two person play is not easy to pull off; however, Fristoe and Duerr accomplish the task effortlessly.
Each one gives an enthralling performance that is as unpredictable as the script itself. Fristoe and Duerr are at the top of their game and perfectly cast in this show with a definite chemistry that makes their own performances stronger.
Duerr brilliantly portrays the auditioning actress Vanda as flighty in the opening scene while giving subtle hints that she is much more than she seems. With impeccable comedic timing, she mesmerizes with her delicate dance through the rich script and character. Her manic antics highlight Fristoe’s more demure and submissive character.
As the playwright/director Thomas Novachek, Fristoe provides the right balance to Duerr’s Vanda. Much like Duerr, his comedic skills are well-honed in this production. He may play the straight man at times, but has his share of hilarious moments.
The play takes place in a rehearsal studio that has been wonderfully designed by Phillip Male, and it works well with Mary Parker’s smart lighting design. In addition, the sound design by Joseph P. Monaghan III, deserves much recognition. The rain while present throughout the play blends in naturally with the background.
A wild, hilarious romp through desire, eroticism and the battle of the sexes, Venus in Fur begins the Actor’s Express season in fine fashion. The show is a little over 90 minutes with no intermission and runs through October 6, 2013. For tickets and more information, please see our Now Onstage listing or visit the theater’s website.
– Kenny Norton