Before the term "masochism" became a kinky term, there was 19th century author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. In his 1870 novel Venus in Furs, young Severin von Kusiemski submits himself as a slave to Wanda von Dunajew, demanding the woman treat him in progressively degrading ways.
In Boise Contemporary Theater's hilarious, sexy production of David Ives' Tony Award-nominated Venus in Fur, Thomas (Dwayne Blackaller) is a playwright and director adapting Sacher-Masoch's novel to the stage. He's frustrated with the women who have auditioned for the part of Wanda, when Vanda (Annie Bulow) blasts through the door, begging for a shot at the part. She's brassy and charismatic, and knows a little too much about Thomas and his play for comfort. It soon becomes clear that while Thomas is the director, he may not be the person in charge.
BCT's stunning Venus in Fur will have audiences laughing out loud and squirming in their seats by turns. This is one of those rare works that turn male privilege on its head in a way that's likely to get men talking about how they take women for granted, and women thinking about the burden of love.
Bulow's Vanda is a dynamo. Her projection and charisma are outsized, and as she tromped around in black pumps and a red corset, she didn't just chew scenery, she was creating it as she went along. Thomas--as well as the audience--were in her thrall.
Props, literally, go to costume designer Hannah Read Newbill, who outfitted Bulow in the raciest of getups and Blackaller in a goofy frock coat; and to
props master Bronwyn Leslie set designer Rick Martin, who found a plush red Victorian sofa with its own sex appeal to serve as centerpiece.
With a two-person cast and sparse set, the play is minimal, and without Bulow's eruptive presence, its more outrageous scenes could have fallen flat. But with Matthew Cameron Clark directing and the right female lead, Venus in Fur doesn't purr: It roars.