Nina Arianda knows how to make an entrance. At the start of Venus in Fur, David Ives’ electric new Broadway drama about an actress auditioning for a theater director, she stumbles into a studio space delivering a steady patter of apologies for her tardiness and lugging an overstuffed bag that she promptly gets caught in the door. She’s a bit of a mess, and a chatty one at that. The room’s only other occupant, a somewhat uptight playwright/director named Thomas (a solid Hugh Dancy), doesn’t know what he’s in for.
Neither does the audience. Arianda, who originated the role of Vanda Off Broadway in 2010 and made a memorable Tony-nominated Broadway debut last spring in a revival of Born Yesterday, delivers a tour de force performance as Vanda. She has the technique and raw talent of a young Meryl Streep, and she brings an energy, wit, intelligence, and sexiness that are stunning to behold.
When she starts to read for the role in Thomas’ play, an adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novel about an idle aristocrat who persuades a woman to totally dominate him, she abruptly switches from her working-girl New York patois to a Continental accent (and similarly upper-class carriage) — and then just as abruptly switches back again to quiz Thomas about his intentions in certain passages. Ives’ script draws out the parallels between Sacher-Masoch’s classic work of provocation (which introduced the word masochism to the language) and the often fraught dynamic between actor and director. Throughout the onstage power struggle, director Walter Bobbie propels the action forward with kinky efficiency. By the time Dancy’s Thomas is donning a dog collar, it’s clear that the tables have been turned.
Theater-goers may experience similar feelings of submission, happily under the spell of Arianda’s mesmerizing performance. A?
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)