The final show of The Rep’s Studio Theater season, “Venus In Fur,” is one audiences will be talking about for a long time. It’s two cast members could not be better chosen or more fit for their roles. It’s staging is simple but inventive, and puts the audience in the middle of everything. In this play, that means a lot.
Jay Stratton appears as Thomas, a playwright and director who is holding auditions in a small rehearsal space for a new play he has written. It is based on a German novel about masochism. As the one-act production opens, Thomas is on the telephone complaining to his fiance about all the untalented actresses he has auditioned that day. It’s a rainy day in New York, and Thomas’ casting prospects have been cloudy too.
Bursting into the room, two hours late and dripping wet, is Vanda, played by newcomer Sarah Nedwek. It just happens this loud and yet mesmerizing young actress has a strength and understanding of Thomas’ play that often leaves him speechless.
“Venus In Fur” is about Vanda’s audition and the gradual metamorphosis of her character into one of the most sensual people you’ll ever meet. Although Stratton is the more experienced actor, Nedwek is absolutely fearless and in control, and in this work, control is the key element.
“Venus In Fur” is, in many ways, a showcase for Nedwek’s interpretation of her character. Vanda is plain-spoken, profane, crude and with apologies to the late Robert Palmer, simply irresistible. She glides seamlessly through two difficult sides of her role. Together, she and Stratton are so genuinely involved in their characters that it reminds you of just what magnificent acting is all about. Director Seth Gordon, who has worked with Nedwek before, has crafted a remarkable evening of unforgettable and sharply funny theater.
“Venus In Fur” is an overpowering production, and you’ll be happy to be conquered.