REVIEW: Venus in Fur

VENUS IN FUR / Photo by Sandy Underwood
VENUS IN FUR / Photo by Sandy Underwood
Greta Wohlrabe
Greta Wohlrabe

VENUS IN FUR is evidence that you can take a medicare story and dazzle an audience if you cast the right actress.  Greta Wohlrabe (“Vanda”) is a stunning performer who lit up the stage from the moment she walked in and never stopped.  Her ability to play a wildly bawdy ditzy blonde and in a microsecond transform into a sexy seductress was mesmerizing.  Her co-star, PJ Sosko, kept up nicey – but this is Wohlrabe’s stage and he just works there.

VENUS IN FUR is set in a very cool industrial space, turned audition room.  Thomas, a playwright turned director, is tired after a long day of bad auditions . .  and then, several hours too late, in walks a ball of manic energy. Vanda is here and she’s going to audition, whether Thomas likes it or not.  They read his play – she has done more than just glance at it on the train, obviously – and she rocks his world in more ways than one.

This is a play about a play and much like the KNOW Theatre’s current production of THE TWENTIETH CENTURY WAY, there is more here than meets the eye.  Not only are things “not what they seem,” as Bridget Leak told us in the pre-show talk in the lobby, but also the show is more than what its billed.  VENUS, like WAY, is a story about relationships . . . but its also a story about the truth and how we interact with it.  I liked WAY better, but that may be because plays like this work better in smaller venues.  I found myself distracted and bored at times until Vanda snapped back into her “real’ self and then I was engaged once again.  I’m enamored with this young actress and I think Cincinnati audiences will be, too.

I enjoyed the set design, because if your’e going to this intimate show in the Marx Theatre, you better do it up big.  The lighting was creative and the sound design perfect.  I do not understand why any show in this space is blocked with actors having their backs to half of the audience for so long, but with actors this good, you don’t always need to see their face to feel their emotion.  KJ Sanchez moved these two around the stage with precision and kudos to her for harnessing the energy of the actors into an engaging piece. I’m not sure what the point is, but I enjoyed the ride!

VENUS IN FUR runs through May 17th at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s Marx Theatre.  More information, including tickets, can be found here.

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