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Stage Sizzles for Venus in Fur

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Sarah Nealis as Vanda in Venus in Fur

photo by Cliff Roles

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Scott Kearns as Thomas in Venus in Fur

photo by Cliff Roles

SARASOTA – In what may be the biggest surprise of the year, Asolo Rep's production of Venus in Fur delivers an eruptive rendition of a passionate and provocative work, in what can be fairly described as a triumph for local theater.

David Ives' erotic comedy might ask more questions than it attempts to answer, but director Tea Alagić extracts maximum satisfaction from the cleverly introspective Broadway hit.

The two-character, 100-minute single-act play focuses on Thomas, the writer-director who adapts the 19th century novel Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, which itself inspired the term masochism, and Vanda, a progressively mysterious actress who shows up as he is about to retire from a frustrating day of failed casting.

Making her Asolo debut, Sarah Nealis is nothing short of masterful as Vanda, the role for which Nina Arianda was awarded a Tony in 2011. Nealis' complete command of a complex and almost manic character carries the single set, dialog-driven play along at a sometimes furious pace, before closing out the final scene with perfect poignancy.

Scott Kearns' measured gravitas as Thomas is the perfect compliment to the performance of Nealis, and the duo's remarkably tight opening-night chemistry earned a standing-ovation curtain call from a grateful audience, whose abnormally-youthful composition was quite noticeable. 

Andrew Boyce's set of a NYC industrial loft on a rainy evening is transportive and plays well with the production's location in the Historic Asolo Theatre, where there is a similar counterbalance between the two periods being straddled in the play.

Venus in Fur is a specially-priced engagement (tickets start at just $15) and runs through April 28. Visit Asolo Rep's website for more information.

photo by Cliff Roles


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