Go Do This: Venus in Fur

Ai yi yi. Get ready to laugh, cringe, and feel both uncomfortable and liberated at the same time! This new TheatreLAB and Yes, And! Entertainment production is something special.

James Ricks as Thomas and the legs of Maggie Roop as Vanda. Photo by Birgitte Photography.

What it is

Venus in Fur is a two-person play-within-a-play-of-a-book–the Venus in Fur you will see is written by David Ives. His character Thomas has written a play, also called Venus in Fur, that is an adaptation of the actual book Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (whence “masochism” comes from!).

That’s a lotta layers!

The prevailing tension in all of the above is power and dominance as it relates to gender. Thomas (James Ricks) meets Vanda (Maggie Roop), who’s auditioning to be in his play, and she’s everything he purports to dislike…until she gets into character. Then, she’s von Sacher-Masoch’s “Wanda” to a T. And, suddenly, Thomas is feeling a whole more like the character played opposite her. Who shall submit to whom?!

Pardon me while I dab the perspiration off my brow for a second.

Who’s behind it

Matt Shofner’s directing Maggie Roop, which turns the tables on last year’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The former’s production company, Yes, And! Entertainment, has teamed up with TheatreLAB for this baby. TheatreLAB is known around town for its willingness to push the envelope, and the Shofner/Roop team is getting to be known for its swapping, bending, shifting, and obliterating gender roles and stereotypes.

Dialect coaching helped Roop and Ricks shape their characters within characters, and the switching between begins to happen so fast that the way they speak becomes crucial for the audience if we want to keep up. “Both intentionally and unintentionally, [Ives] has done a phenomenal job at starting a conversation about what feminism is,” says Roop. Her experience has been a challenging one, playing one character who plays another who wears a whole lot of dom stuff and thinks a whole lot of dom thoughts.

“The play brings you right to the brink,” says Shofner. “The hope is that you’ll continue exploring right where it left off…Theatre is about putting this stuff in front of people and letting them make their own experience out of it.”

“What people are going to sit there and get out of it,” continues Roop. “You don’t get that from TV or movies.”

Where it is

The Basement! My favorite theater in all of the world. Firehouse, you a close second, boo.

This teeny tiny space seems cut out for just anything, and you’ll be way up close and personal with a whole lot of uncomfortable stuff, which is exactly where Shofner wants you.

The Basement is at 300 E. Broad Street. It is in…the basement. There’s an exterior flight of steps once you come into the gate on the corner, and you’ll find yourself right there in the action. (So, like, don’t arrive late!)

When it is

Venus in Fur opened last weekend and runs through May 7th. I highly suggest you get moving and go see it.

How much it costs

$30 for average folks, $20 for groups, seniors, and RAPT folks, and $10 for students. STUDENTS: This is a serious deal, man! You can get tickets online or by calling 804.505.0558.

Other things to note

The Basement is not wheelchair accessible. Parking is pretty easy at night on Broad Street.

If you don’t go do this, you will…

Lose a great conversation starter with whomever you’re planning to bring.

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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