Review: Venus in Fur (Canadian Stage)

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A sexy cat and mouse chase takes the stage in Venus in Fur playing at Toronto’s Bluma Appel Theatre

Auditions can never be looked at the same way again after watching the intense power struggle between actors Rick Miller and Carly Street in the Canadian Stage production, Venus in Fur.

The moment when Vanda (played by Street) stumbled in late for her audition, she commanded the stage with her exotic look and fiery personality. She convinced Thomas the playwright/director (Miller) to give her a shot and let her read. Reluctantly, Thomas eventually agreed to listen to the vibrant yet somewhat frantic woman who stood tall in her sexy black leather lingerie and stilettos. I honestly think it would be hard for anyone to say NO to her.

The cat and mouse chase between both characters was apparent from the beginning as was the underlying chemistry. Playwright David Ives did a remarkable job in capturing the depth of each character that both actors performed so convincingly. Street’s performance was outstanding as she seamlessly moved from one character to another. I increasingly became more intrigued with the story each time Street opened up her large suitcase to pull out a new costume for the play reading. I’ve never seen someone that prepared for an audition!

Costuming played a big role in the ninety-five minute production. For example, there was a lot of playfulness and power play with feet and shoes. Whether it was Street telling Miller to kiss her feet or Miller seductively removing Street’s sexy stilettos to put on an even sexier boot, costuming (by designer Debra Hanson) was an integral part to the overall production.

As the play moves back and forth from fact to fiction, issues of feminism and gender relations became paramount. In the beginning of the production, I found it challenging to get into the audition reading of the 1870 play which seemed very much like fiction. However, as the story progressed, the lines between fact and fiction blurred and it became harder to tell what was real and what was not. Something an audience member will have to decide for themselves.

There was so much to take from the play Venus in Fur. It had everything. Great comedic scenes, a strong plot, passion between the characters and even a chance to explore your own fantasies (wink wink). Ending with a much deserved standing ovation, this thrilling production is a must see for all theatre lovers.

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Photo by David Hou

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