2nd Story Theatre's opening summer show is the Rhode Island premiere of "Venus in Fur" by David Ives. There are only two characters in this 75 minute show. A beleaguered playwright/director, desperate to cast his stage adaptation of a sadomasochistic tale, Venus in Fur, reluctantly auditions an equally desperate actress. It opens with Thomas, the director talking on the phone after a day of failed auditions for his play within a play, which has been adapted from a book by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch about a dominatrix and her love servant. Before Thomas leaves for the day, the second character, Vanda arrives frazzled and harried. She arrives late to audition for this leading role named Vanda. As the casting session simmers, lines blur between play and reality as the two enter a dangerous game of domination and submission that only one of them can win. When she pulls a vintage dress out of her bag, the transformation from coarse, vulgar actress into this confidant, self assured young woman from the original novel. Director Ed Shea casts the phenomenal Lara Hakeem as Vanda and she commands the stage in this very demanding role.
Lara's first entrance is gangbusters as she rants and raves about the rain storm swirling about outside, being late for the audition. She utters many fucks during this tirade which are hilarious. One of her funniest lines is "She has other fish to fuck." Lara's energetic portrayal never wavers during this 75 minute show as she keeps you enthralled as she becomes this Austro-Hungarian woman from 1870. Does Vanda reverse the tables on the chauvinistic playwright, Thomas? Will the woman defeat this pig of a man or will he triumph? Making his debut at 2nd Story as Thomas is Richard Derry. His character never seems to catch on fire as does the character of Vanda. There are glimpses of energetic delivery every now and then, making the audience wonder if Vanda is the better written and more colorful role. Ives script explores the dynamics between men and women as well as director and performer and those wanting pain or inflicting pain. So for a look at a funny and risque show to start off your summer, catch "Venus in Fur" at 2nd Story Theatre to find out who wins the day. The skylight set to display the lightening storm is by Max Ponticelli who also does the fantastic lighting changes for the show.