“Venus in Fur”, a play at the South Coast Repertory theater in Costa Mesa, CA
Starring: Jaimi Paige as Vanda (the real star); Graham Hamilton as Thomas
Director: Casey Stangl
Playwright: David Ives
I love live theater. There is nothing to replace it, despite my other love of film. Living in Los Angeles has its ups and downsides. Great weather, great lifestyle, great talented actors on film and in plays abound. We won’t get into the saga of horrific traffic, bad air or superficiality. I had the privilege of being at the opening weekend of a Tony winner, the play based on the book by the originator of SM, Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895), no, not Marquis de Sade. Here is his quote in the program notes: “I seem like a little captive mouse with which a beautiful cat prettily plays. She is ready at any moment to tear it to pieces, and my heart of a mouse threatens to burst.” This interpretation doesn’t stray much from the original text, based on the male character’s longing to become the slave of his mistress, and to “comply reservedly for six months with every one of her desires and commands…” Such is the dance of erotic power exchanges, showing the tension that emerges from dominance and submission in consensual erotic relationships that engage the psyche, the power of seduction, and the sheer arousing power of give-and-take. Both actors presented a rowdy yet tight clean portrayal of two people trapped in the moment of taking or surrendering their power as they fight for dominance over who gets the part in their play! This was one hot play. I particularly liked the female lead, landing on scene in a dowdy dress only to reveal her BDSM black leather costume underneath, ready for the role, with a shopping bag prop that contained an entire wardrobe for proper domination of her subject. Her first remark about the play she’s about to audition for is that it is “S&M porn”, putting a modern spin on an old text. The duo portray the director (a weaker actor to be sure) who is seeking to cast an actress in his upcoming play. The play is in front of your eyes, not a distant want. The plot builds as the aspiring actress seeks the role of a lifetime, and the director succumbs to her power over him, while they both do a staged reading of their lines from the play based on the book, or the play within a play for our delights. Hot sexy a bit thrilling at moments and fun, I recommend that you see this as a film (Roman Polanski’s version has already won acclaim abroad and will come to the United States soon…) or another rendering of this sizzling stage play with a competent cast. This was a great play at a great playhouse. If you are ever in the greater Southern California region, check out South Coast Repertory.