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Sexy 'Venus in Fur' stimulates Cleveland, extends run

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Venus in Fur at The Cleveland Play House

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CLEVELAND, OH – Sex sells, as the Cleveland Play House (CPH) has extended the run of its wittily naughty comedy “Venus in Fur” by three performances. Written by David Ives and directed by CPH Artistic Director Laura Kepley, the seductive 110-minute play is running now through November 30, 2013 in the Allen Theatre Second Stage at PlayhouseSquare.

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This humorous play within a play is an enticing look into the world of actor-versus-director, gender roles, dominant-submissive relationships, and power play.

“I am delighted that Northeastern Ohio audiences are joining us for this suspenseful, funny and racy battle of the sexes. I love hearing audiences gasping and laughing during the show and then excitedly debating the ending as they leave the theatre,” says Kepley.

“Venus” is based on the nineteenth century erotic novella “Venus in Furs” by the “father” of masochism himself, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. “Masochism” (ma-sə-ki-zəm) in general use is “the enjoyment of what appears to be painful or tiresome; a sexual perversion characterized by pleasure in being subjected to pain or humiliation especially by a love object.”

The piece begins as Playwright/Director Thomas is in search of a suitable actress for the female lead in his play, and Vanda (an out-of-work actress who is the epitome of “wrong”) walks in to turn the world upside down. Vanda is more than she appears and a galvanizing game of cat and mouse ensues between the two.

The play explores the present as it parallels with the past, and tantalizingly ties the characters of Thomas and Vanda into the lives of a nineteenth century “couple” as they twist each other’s hearts within a master-mistress relationship. But what is then and what is now? The lines that are clear in the beginning of the play blur as the tension heightens. As Vanda and Thomas read and act out the script during the audition process, the audience is left to wonder: what parts are the characters “acting” and what parts are their true selves “come out to play”?

The actors in this 50 Shades-esque production are tantalizingly captivating. Michael Brusasco is a titillating Thomas. His strong presence and charmingly annoyed demeanor transform deliciously throughout the play. As Vanda emotionally strips him down to his true feelings, the audience sees layers of exposed uncertainty, as well as his struggle to keep control of the audition, the script, the play and his feelings towards her. Brusasco’s timing and build up of Thomas is provocative.

Vanessa Wasche’s Vanda is a force to be reckoned with. As she blows onto the set like a spirited storm, the character immediately fights for attention, for recognition and for domination over the situation. As Thomas struggles to keep the audition within his power, Wasche’s Vanda beguiles and tempts him into giving her exactly what she wants – more time to unravel his notions of himself and his adaptation of the original book.

Laura Kepley’s direction of “Venus” is smart and savvy. Never stepping over the line into vulgar, but keeping the feel of the action both dark and alluring, she’s created a balance of yesterday and today that is both delightful and daring to experience.

Venus in Fur” is running in the Second Stage at PlayhouseSquare using a runway configuration for the very first time, allowing audiences to have a unique visual perspective.

The design team includes Cameron Caley Michalak (Scenic Designer), James C. Swonger (Sound Designer), Michael Boll (Lighting Designer), Whitney Locher (Costume Designer). The Stage Manager for this production will be John Godbout.

This production contains strong language and sexual subject matter that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Venus in Fur” is running now through November 30th in the Second Stage at PlayhouseSquare. For tickets or more information, call 216-241-6000 or visit www.clevelandplayhouse.com.

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Do you have a Cleveland performing arts story? Please contact Kate Miller at KateMillerExaminer@yahoo.com.

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