By David Ives, Directed by Walter Bobbie. At Classic Stage Through February 21st.
David Ives goes all meta (not to mention Miike) in his adaptaiton "the infamous erotic novel of the same name", setting the S&M tale of the Battle of the Sexes in an audition room where an adapter/director is slowly (and comically) undone by a seemingly-ditzy actress. The reviews are all over the map, ranging from A to D-! General points of consensus: Even those that like the play agree that Ives doesn't quite pull of its ending, even those who dislike the play praise newcomer Nina Ariadna's performance, who gets the kind of notices that actors sacrifice goats for. After that, everything's in dispute.
New Jersey News Room A
(Michael Sommers) You want funny? You want sexy? Then you'll want to see "Venus in Fur." Grab your seats now. Classic Stage Company, where "Venus in Fur" premiered Tuesday, accommodates less than 200 viewers and this bewitching show promises to be one extremely hot ticket.
Just Shows To Go You A
(Patrick Lee) Arianda’s rich, many-layered performance is the kind of debut that makes your jaw drop. You watch her, marveling at her navigation of the role’s changing moods and deepening colors, and think of dozens upon dozens of roles you want to see her play, everything from The Owl And The Pussycat to The Sea Gull. She’s nothing short of astonishing.
New York Times A-
(Charles Isherwood) The gamesmanship gets a little repetitive and confusing as Mr. Ives struggles to keep the suspense building and the mystery of Vanda’s identity — and Thomas’s psychology — elusive. But if Mr. Ives never quite settles on a satisfying solution to the mystery he presents, the play is still nifty, skillfully wrought entertainment, an enjoyable game of kitten-with-a-whip and mouse.
Time Out NY A-
(David Cote)Venus in Fur does lose some of its drive and focus toward the end, but this Classic Stage Company production has manifold strengths: Walter Bobbie’s breezy direction, John Lee Beatty’s chic set and Ives’s witty, nimble dialogue…not to mention the remarkable Arianda. More audiences should have the pleasure of being dominated by a major talent like hers
Associated Press B+
(Jennifer Farrar) David Ives' humorous off-Broadway play, "Venus in Fur," is inspired by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's erotic 1870 novel. Ives has crafted a modern take on a classic tale, skillfully twisting his plot and characters in a fast-paced journey into one man's entrapment by a clever, vengeful female. With taut direction by Walter Bobbie, Ives plays off the novel's eroticism to portray power shifts between an unsuspecting playwright/director and a young actress ostensibly auditioning for his new play, which is also based on the novel.
(Elisabeth Vincentelli) David Ives' new "Venus in Fur" stands out in several ways, and one of them is that it's packed with layers and ideas. So packed, in fact, that by the end it's bursting at the seams. It's exciting, but a challenge: Only masterful actors at the top of their game could keep it all together -- and the ones here struggle to keep up...A more experienced cast may have helped, but Arianda and Bentley aren't ready to handle the hairpin turns their multifaceted characters must negotiate. Her entrance is a triumph of comic timing, for instance, but she's unconvincing as a steely seductress, while he strains to suggest Thomas' sexual epiphany. Alas, they still have a few kinks to work out.
Joe Dziemianowicz D+ if, like me, you've never seen Arianda onstage before...She recalls Tracey Ullman at her most audacious and Barbra Streisand in her "Owl and the Pussycat" days. As she blows through Vanda's various moods — seductive, sweet, scary, among them — she's irresistible. But that's still not enough to recommend the play. The better-known Bentley ("American Beauty") gives such a flat performance that he's no help. But the bigger issue is that Ives' play, though filled with zingers, gets repetitive midway and leads to a lame conclusion.
That Sounds Cool D+
(Aaron Riccio) Relationships don't need to be between equals--they rarely are, and this play knows it--but they require real passion, and too much of Ives's script comes across as artificial, using a classic novel to take swings at modern conventions, and a modern frame to talk about classic psychology. The result is analytic when it should be emotional, and glib when it should be serious, and Venus in Fur is constantly undercutting its struggle by refusing to actually have stakes that are grounded in reality.
(Marilyn Stasio) David Ives ("New Jerusalem") and his collaborator, helmer Walter Bobbie, take all the fun out of sexual power games in "Venus in Fur" by talking the subject to death. Nice idea, adapting Leopold Sacher-Masoch's erotic 1870 novel to a contempo Off Broadway theater audition -- notoriously fertile ground for the sado-masochistic dynamic between director and actor. The wit breaks down, though, once Ives starts piling on plot contrivances to support the thematic parallels. Even more of a misfire, scribe allows his protagonist to dilate at insufferable length on his own cleverness. The boot and the whip are too good for this bore.
NY Theatre D-
(David Gordon) The thing about Venus in Fur—David Ives's present-set "adaptation" of Leopold Sacher-Masoch's erotic novel of the same title from 1870—is that if the last 45 minutes weren't as mind-boggling as they are, it would be a fascinating, entirely worthwhile piece of theatre. But as it stands, this production at the Classic Stage Company under the direction of Walter Bobbie is only truly worth it for one thing: the performance of a newcomer named Nina Arianda.
NJNR A 13; JS2 A 13; TONY A- 12; NYT A- 12; AP B+ 11; NYP B- 9; NYDN D+ 5; TSC D+ 5; V D 4; NYTH D- 3; Total = 87/10 = 8.7 (B-)