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  Play Details

Venus in Fur

Goodman Theatre
170 N. Dearborn Street Chicago

When Vanda arrives several hours late to her audition for a play based on a nineteenth-century erotic novel, the director, Thomas, is less-than-impressed. But Vanda's masterful performance flips the script on Thomas' expectations and turns the session into a tango for dominance between actress and director, woman and man. Hailed as "seriously smart and very funny" by The New York Times, Venus in Fur is a laugh-out-loud study of the politics of sex and power.

Thru - Apr 13, 2014



Price: $25-$86

Show Type: Comedy/Drama

Box Office: 312-443-3800

Running Time: 1hr, 40mins

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  Venus in Fur Reviews

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"...The main problem is a lack of danger. The subsidiary problem is a lack of sharp edges and contrasting turns within what's basically one long scene and a surfeit of the mushy middle ground that excites no one, especially, as it happens, the masochist. The tertiary problem is chemistry that only really snares a palpable reaction from its two agents very late in the project."
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Chris Jones


Chicago Sun Times - Somewhat Recommended

"...While it has its entertaining moments — and at the Goodman Theatre in a production directed by Joanie Schultz, it also has the impossibly leggy, catlike presence of Amanda Drinkall — “Venus” is just not a terribly good play. Strindberg’s 1888 classic “Miss Julie” as well as Philip Dawkins’ fascinating new “Miss Marx” (now at Strawdog Theatre) deal with the same subject, and do it better."
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Hedy Weiss


Chicago Reader - Recommended

"...The great delight of Venus in Fur lies in the constant shifts of power and identity between the two combatants. Whatever you think you're watching one minute turns out to be something else the next. It's a sort of a philosophical quick-change act. Yet nothing that happens is chaotic or gratuitous. Rufus Collins's Thomas and Amanda Drinkall's Vanda stay solidly grounded in the emotional and strategic reality—however weird—of their struggle. Collins, in particular, does a delicate job of letting us see Thomas's pompous cluelessness without making a full-out ass of him. Director Schultz brings the tension between the two actors to an excruciating pitch by keeping air between them when it counts, making every touch resonate."
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Tony Adler


Centerstage - Somewhat Recommended

"...Thematically, the show examines a swath of compelling power dynamics, from male/female, to writer/actor to servant/master. At issue here are questions of sexism, interpersonal relationships, and in a minor way, the slim divide between child abuse and the origin of fetish. Despite profound objectives, discussion of the show’s themes feels general, in part because we never learn enough about the characters to truly attach. On a line level, the dialogue is rapid and sometimes quippy, though never as witty as Ives intends."

Sarah Terez Rosenblum


Chicagoist - Highly Recommended

"...Ives' play is a heady whirlwind of a show, stuffed full of ambiguity and intrigue. In fact, it’s just the type of show that inspires lengthy post-show discussion. A whip-smart script and capable performers keep the audience charged up, expecting the unexpected—and ensuring the Goodman’s production gives off an electricity all its own. Hail Aphrodite, indeed. "
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Melody Udell


Chicago Stage Review - Recommended

"...Venus in Fur is funny and sexy and tame enough to titillate an American audience without scandalizing very many. David Ives’s play makes a big deal out of the difference between “ambivalence” and “ambiguity.” There is a purposeful ambiguity here, and not the ambiguity the audience is fed along the way about whether Vanda is an actor or a persistent fan or maybe even a goddess.  The purposeful, and somewhat vexing, ambiguity here is whether the scene is supposed to be read as real: is the audience watching a play about an audition, or is the audience watching a play about two lovers role-playing an audition?  No doubt most audience members will make up their minds one way or the other, but the lack of definitive resolution on this point detracts somewhat from the pleasure of it all — and pleasure is what Venus in Fur is all about."
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J. Scott Hill


Time Out Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...But this is clearly a breakout opportunity, and Drinkall makes the most of it, clocking hairpin turns from sensual to screwball and mastering Vanda’s misdirection, all while strutting the stage in little more than black lingerie and ballbreaking boots. Broadway vet Rufus Collins makes a fine match, pegging Thomas’s particular brand of self-congratulatory intellectual machismo. Schultz’s zippy staging keeps perfect pace with Ives’s volley of ideas, which is no small feat. This Venus? Yeah, baby, she’s got it."
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Kris Vire


Chicago On the Aisle - Highly Recommended

"...Director Joanie Schultz keeps the two characters moving in figurative circles around each other, closing and separating, heating up and cooling off, their identities blurring. Designer Todd Rosenthal’s unadorned audition studio — albeit with brilliant skylight displays — leaves Thomas no retreat from Vanda’s eager role-playing. No matter. For him, it’s one step back and two forward anyway."
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Lawrence B. Johnson


Stage and Cinema - Recommended

"...Perversely enough, the most disturbing truth in Venus in Furs isn’t the insistent voyeurism that reduces the sniggling audience to peeping Toms, the rhapsodized friction of mink stoles on human flesh, or the Liaisons Dangereuses–style treachery. No, these are basically “one trick ponies” delivering familiar goods. Ives wants to have it both ways: The Goodman theatergoers must be both aroused and upbraided. We’re meant to be drawn into this highly heterosexual, fetishistic fantasy, then metaphorically scourged for having ignored its misogynistic fundamentals. Gotcha!
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Lawrence Bommer


Splash Magazine - Highly Recommended

"...The beauty of Venus in Fur lies in the tango between Thomas and Vanda.  Thomas, played remarkably well by Rufus Collins, presents a smug intellectual confidence that may or may not be immune to Vanda’s overt sexual charms.  Amanda Drickall (Vanda) also excels here and is especially impressive in her ability to rapidly morph between the wildly contrasting personalities of a helpless waif and a dominating vixen.  Throughout the production, control is volleyed back and forth between the two actors and although it is never really in doubt whom will emerge the victor, it is still an exciting battle to observe."
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Noel Schecter


ChicagoCritic - Recommended

"...But, it is in the last quarter of this work that I had problems with. While Amanda Drinkall gave a 'star-making' performance wherein she demonstrated both her wacky comic side and her powerful dramatic chops, she was not allowed to go far enough (by director Joanie Schultz) to the sensual, sexy seductress side toward Thomas. The essential element in a dominatrix possesses is fear and it seemed that Thomas never really feared the consequences if he didn't perform his slave ritual to Vanda's expectations. Rufus Collins simply played being dominated too casual and timid. I expected more sexiness and more erotic scenes with nudity, perhaps? The masochism scenes were too tame and didn't evoke enough fear and dramatic tension to scare us."
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Tom Williams


Chicago Stage Standard - Somewhat Recommended

"...Amanda Drinkall is fine as the actress. She nicely balances her Kathy Griffin-like kooky actress, and the Aphrodite inspired goddess she becomes in the play. She has comedic gifts, and confident sexuality. (Nina Arianda won a Tony Award in this role, and I watched one minute of that performance on the New York Times website after the Goodman opening, and it is sublime.) But she does not yet have a large enough bag of tricks to sustain our interest and build tension. And despite the posing and histrionics, there is no sexual chemistry with her co-star Rufus Collins, who is also fine. But why were all of Chicago’s great actors in this age range passed over? I can’t wait to see two great Chicago actors duking this play out in an off-Loop space in which life and death, love and loss, are all on the line."
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David Zak


Around The Town Chicago - Recommended

"...The technical parts of the production are key to making this a solid production , so hats off to Jenny Mannis for her costumes, Keith Parham for his superb lighting effects, Mikhail Fiksel for his sound and David Wooley for his fight direction ( which was more properly sexual possibilities direction). I am not sure who did the props, but there were many and they were well organized, mostly in Vanda’s “trick bag”."
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Alan Bresloff


Chicago Theatre Review - Recommended

"...David Ives has a wide variety of plays to his credit, but he’ll probably be forever remembered for this intense examination of the relationships between actor and director, the dominant and submissive, between men and women. It’s a fascinating exploration of how power intoxicates and how wickedly perverse the sexual dynamics existing between the strong and the meek can be. While other plays may have dealt with the same issues found in Ives’ drama, audiences may find this particular play of seduction and domination just titillating and naughty enough to hold their attention for 90 minutes of handcuffs and whips."

Colin Douglas


Huffington Post - Highly Recommended

"...Director Joanie Schultz has assembled a perfectly matched pair to bring this cheeky two-hander, which proved a hit on Broadway in 2012, to life. Amanda Drinkall, a ravishing local actress who constantly surprises with her seemingly unlimited number of colors and textures, has landed a breakout role that perfectly showcases her talents. As Vanda, the adorably scatterbrained actress who bursts into Thomas's audition room, Drinkall wins us over with a goofball exterior that slowly and shockingly strips away to reveal a much more complex fascination. Rufus Collins, as the dog-headed playwright, producer and director of this play-within-a-play, protests that his work, which is based on the Sacher-Masoch novel, isn't anything more than a study in two passionate and intriguing people. While Vanda, the eager auditionee, scrutinizes his motives, she revels in the reading."
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Robert Bullen


Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Somewhat Recommended

"...“Venus in Fur” will appeal to viewers with an appetite for the far out leavened with comedy and an observant backstage view of how plays are put together for performance. Playgoers will want to attend to see what all the excitement is about and many may leave the theater more stirred and more satisfied than I was. “Venus in Fur” offers plenty of flash and sizzle but an insufficiency of credible drama."
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Dan Zeff


The Fourth Walsh - Recommended

"...VENUS IN FUR was enthusiastically received at Goodman’s opening last night.  The audience was a composite of regular theatre goers and industry folks.  The audition-styled plot might be less interesting for the general public.  The humor has an insider’s bent.  The tone and look of the play might be perceived unfinished.  I even thought this would play better in Goodman’s smaller theatre.  Some of the intimacy of a moment gets lost in the bigness of The Albert.  At the beginning, I had trouble even hearing the actors."

Katy Walsh


   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the opening night judges of The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee. The entire production is then eligible for nomination for awards at the end of the season.
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