“Venus in Fur” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ May 5, 2014


Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

David Ives’ “Venus in Fur” lit up off-Broadway in 2010 followed by a successful 2011 Broadway transfer and it marks its local debut in a sparkling Arizona Theatre Company staging that is instilled with divine comic shenanigans.

In a two character play like “Venus in Fur” you must have two master comic farceurs and a dynamic director something the fine ATC production that is co-produced with the Seattle Repertory Theatre has in stager Shana Cooper and two comically adept actors in Michael Tisdale and Gillian Williams.  Cooper keeps the pacing brisk as she emphasizes the play’s delightful comic excesses.

So what makes “Venus in Fur” so funny?  It’s set in a drab acting studio where director/playwright Thomas is auditioning his play’s potential star, Vanda.  He’s drilling Vanda to see if she has the wacky irreverence to play the female lead opposite Thomas.  Vanda works hard to persuade him to play the male lead in his play.  Thomas has auditioned many actresses to play his lead until Vanda arrives just as he’s about to call it a frustrating day when none of the actresses came close to getting the character right.  Vanda does it beautifully taking every bit of direction and each suggestion he throws her way to make her Vanda flawlessly funny.  Vanda sparks her irreverent audition with constant comic asides and pithy but hysterical comments about her character and the situations the playwright has created.

She’s able to step in and step out of the character with fervent aplomb and her insights suggest to the playwright that he’s found his perfect Vanda.  It’s delightfully witty sparring and the two actors couldn’t be more comically delightful.

Williams’ Vanda is the stronger character who is more comically bizarre and far more erratic than Thomas.  Williams’ Vanda is constantly amusing and her comic timing with Tisdale is perfection making the play so enchantingly hysterical.  Thomas’ character has far more hang-ups and real life experiences that stifle him a bit but also round out Thomas with the same delightful abandon as Vanda.

The wacky, crazy, and truly funny “Venus in Fur” is a charming comic delight continues through May 18 at the Herberger Theater Center.  For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: A