This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Nina Arianda and Hugh Dancy are electrifying in David Ives’s VENUS IN FUR (photo by Joan Marcus)

Lyceum Theatre
149 West 45ht St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Through June 17, $76.50- $141.50

“Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather / Whiplash girlchild in the dark / Severin, your servant, comes in bells, please don’t forsake him / Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart,” Lou Reed sang on the Velvet Underground’s 1967 S&M classic, “Venus in Furs.” The song was inspired by the 1870 novella of the same name by Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, which also serves as the basis for David Ives’s wickedly funny play, Venus in Fur. Following its recent run at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, the sizzling-hot two-character Manhattan Theatre Club production is back on Broadway, thrilling audiences at the Lyceum through June 17. In a small New York basement studio, Thomas (British actor Hugh Dancy) has just finished auditioning actors for his next play, Venus in Fur, when Vanda (breakout star Nina Arianda) suddenly storms into his life, a whirlwind of crazy energy who has come to try out for the role of Wanda von Dunajew in Thomas’s theatrical adaptation of Sacher-Masoch’s story-within-a-story about gender, sexuality, and degradation. Thomas tries to get rid of Vanda, but the two of them are soon reading the play, with Ives cleverly creating a developing story-within-a-story of his own as Thomas and Vanda start mimicking what is going on between Wanda and Severin von Kusiemski. What begins as a classic battle of the sexes turns into so much more as they seductively fight over power and dominance. Tony nominee Arianda (Born Yesterday) is a marvel as Vanda, effortlessly going back and forth between the nasal-voiced wacky ingénue and the strong, defiant characters she is portraying. Dancy, in a role originally performed by Wes Bentley in the show’s January 2010 Classic Stage Company debut, does an excellent job of keeping up with Arianda’s boundless energy as he plays both Thomas and the subservient Severin. Anita Yavich’s costumes are sensational, with Vanda continually reaching into her bag of tricks, pulling out erotically charged items, including to-die-for thigh-high leather boots. With Vanda and Thomas continually fighting over where to stand as they read the play-within-a-play, it is easy to forget that the show is actually directed by Walter Bobbie (Chicago, Footloose), who seamlessly weaves everything together. Venus in Fur is a breathless, electrifying drama that should not be forsaken; you’d have to be a masochist not to see it.

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