Lindsey Angell

A live/work brick-walled studio stage set in the present provides the backdrop to the Arts Club Theatre’s production of David Ives’ Venus in Fur. As the play begins, and the audience is treated to the first few lines of the Velvet Underground’s taunting Venus in Furs, we watch as writer-director Thomas chats on his cell phone to his fiancée. He’s clearly frustrated after a day of auditions for his new play of the same title.

Trying to find an actress that can actually “play a female” part has been David’s challenge up until now, as he’s been greeted with childlike, needy, and desperate women all vying to play the role of Wanda von Dunajew, the dominating female. Just as he’s about to call it a night and head home, in bursts tall, leggy blond Vanda Jordan with a huge black bag of clothing slung over her shoulder.

A bit ditzy, this new actress undresses to reveal head-to-toe black leather and fishnets. Even though the audition’s reader has long left the building for the day, Vanda pleads with David to read for the play, based on the 1870 novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. No problem with the wardrobe misstep, as she quickly whips out a flouncy white fitted dress and places it over the black getup. Vonda’s an energetic sort that at first comes off as an unintelligent, loud-mouthed city girl.

Vincent Gale, Lindsey Angell
[Vincent Gale, Lindsey Angell]

As the play unfolds and the reading gets underway, we begin to see that Vanda’s more on top of the game than Thomas originally gives her credit for. Through the next hour (of the one-act, 90-minute performance), the two engage in the characters of the play, plotting the finer points in the story, and adding to scenes with their own insights.

It would appear that the two are well-suited to perform the piece in real-life, through the emotionally-charged scenes. As in the original novel, the balance of power shifts as the play-within-a-play flips between fantasy and reality. Many themes are explored during the evening, from traditional power struggles to taboo desire, all wrapped into a light, sexy comedy.

Vincent Gale, Lindsey Angell
[Vincent Gale, Lindsey Angell]

While both Lindsey Angell (Vanda) and Vincent Gale (Thomas) bring strong performances to their roles, I did at times wish that the two would have remained in character for longer periods of time. There’s a lot of shifting in and out of the play (the one they’re reading), and what could have been much more intense scenes are broken up by reality.

Adding even more dimension to the play, Vanda controls the lighting during their readings. Kudos to set and lighting designer John Webber.

Venus in Fur is directed by David Mackay and continues at the Granville Island Stage through November 2.

All photos by David Cooper.

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