Leopold von Sacher-Masoch is known today primarily for the word derived from his name: masochism, and for his scandalous 1870 novel VENUS IN FUR, the title of a intelligent and funny play by David Ives now in production by Philadelphia Theatre Company. Thomas (Mark Alhadeff) is a writer/director looking to cast the leading actress in his adaptation of the Sacher-Masoch book. After a day auditioning vacuous, unsuitable actors, Thomas is about to go home to his staid home life when Vanda (Jenni Putney) enters, accompanied by a lightning strike (lighting: Thom Weaver).
At first appearance, Vanda is everything Thomas criticizes in actors, but when she adopts the role of Kushemski in the audition, she perfectly inhabits a powerful Victorian mistress. Putney’s control in moving between “Vanda” and “Kushemski” (at a certain point the boundaries blur) is a joy to watch. The sexual power struggle between her characters and Alhadeff’’s is provocative and thought-provoking. An inventive script, virtuosic performances, a steady stream of laughs, and intellectual depth: you can’t help but submit to VENUS IN FUR. May 24 to June 23, 2013. philadelphiatheatrecompany.org.