Power plays and S&M fill 'Venus in Fur' at TheatreWorks

March 13, 2014 Updated: March 28, 2014 at 2:46 pm
photo - Jon Barker and Carley Cornelius star in TheatreWorks' production of "Venus in Fur." Photo by Isaiah Downing.
Jon Barker and Carley Cornelius star in TheatreWorks' production of "Venus in Fur." Photo by Isaiah Downing. 

It's good, kinky fun.

At least, that's what The New York Times called David Ives' play "Venus in Fur" after it debuted on Broadway in 2011. And while, yes, there is a scantily-clad woman on stage in a dominatrix-style role, there's much more beneath the surface of this two-person show set in the world of New York City theater.

The TheatreWorks production opens Thursday.

"There's a lot more going on underneath," says star Jon Barker, a New York City actor who starred in TheatreWorks' "The Wild Duck" last year. "Ives has crafted a rich and complex story. I think audiences are surprised as they watch it - how the power struggle shifts back and forth. When you think you know what's going on, things shift drastically."

A woman shows up late to an audition, where the director is wrapping things up for the day after an unsuccessful search for a leading lady. He's casting for his adaptation of the 1870 novel "Venus in Furs" by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, a name that inspired the term masochism.

"I like seeing plays that are smart and treat the audience like they're smart," says director Murray Ross. "It was brilliant of Ives to have fun with this novel, which is notorious, and gave us the S&M, which is about sex and power. So much of what theater is about is sex and power. On stage you're always asking who has the power in the scene - who has it, who's submitting to it. It's the same questions as in life. You put that in an erotic context and it's exciting."

The show is set in a bare audition room in the middle of Manhattan. An intense rainstorm is raging outside.

In keeping with that ambiance, TheatreWorks will hold the play at 527 S. Tejon St., in the cavernous space of the old SoDo night club.

Last season, they set their production of "Everyman on the Bus" on a city bus and drove audiences from location to location.

"It feels industrial and downtown," Murray says, "and going to this theater takes you to a new place. And once you're in the play, that takes you into a new place."

"Venus in Fur"

Who: TheatreWorks

When: Opens Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, 2 p.m. March 29, April 5 and 12, runs through April 13, 527 S. Tejon St.

Tickets: $35, free University of Colorado at Colorado Springs students, no kids 4 and younger, not recommended for kids 15 and younger; 255-3232, theatreworkscs.org.

Something else: First Friday Talkback, with actors and director after the show, March 21; First Saturday Gala, with free drinks and snacks, March 22; Prologue lecture with dominatrix Mistress Djuna, 2:30 p.m. March 23.

Other events

"Downton Abbey" Tea and Tour - Saturday, 5 p.m. tours of Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, 6-8 p.m. tea, treats and other activities, Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, 631 N. Tejon St., $15, $25 couple; 531-6333, ppld.org.

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