By JOAN TADDIE
There was an electrifying buzz in the black box theatre of The Henegar Center for the Arts as the audience arrived to see a production of “Venus in Fur” by playwright David Ives. The play is based on the novel of the same name written by the 19th century writer, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. The fact that the word “masochism” is derived from this author’s name, probably added to the edgy atmosphere as the audience carefully chose their seats.
We immediately meet Thomas, a playwright who has had no success in casting the part of Vanda in his adaptation of Ives’ “Venus in Fur.” Thomas is played by Zack Roundy, a smart and inventive actor who pulls us all into the intrigue of his relationship with Vanda, an actress who arrives late for the audition, has the same name as the character she is reading for in the script, and has an uncanny knowledge of every line of Thomas’ as yet unpublished play. Performed with sultry command and domination by Shanise Jordan, Vanda begins the sado masochistic mind games that bring Thomas to a breaking point and holds the audience captured until the last thunder bolt.
I can’t say enough about the performances of Zack Roundy and Shanise Jordan. They are incredible together as they move seamlessly from playwright and actress to characters in Thomas’ play. This production does not have an intermission, and the focus and energy these two actors bring to the stage took my breath away. The intensity of their connection kept the audience on the edge of their seats.The technical aspects of this production were also outstanding. I must begin with Thom Restivo’s sound design. The sounds of lightning at various levels were so effective that they became a third unseen actor. Kudos also to the lighting design of Josh Huss that matched the sound of the lightning and also gave an eerie feeling to Brighid Reppert’s simple but effective scenic design; just right for the small acting space. I also loved the costume design by Andrew Cline and Vanessa Lucy Glenn, which allowed the actors to portray the many changes to their personas with ease as the audience watched.
This is a complex and intense play performed in a challenging space. All the dots were expertly connected so that the audience was drawn into every twist and turn of the story to the very end.
And oh what an ending!
Editor’s note: Since I directed the show, I requested that Ms. Taddie not mention me in her review. Thank you, Pam Harbaugh.