In Venus in Fur at GableStage, even the weather is choreographed. The play opens with a bracing thunderclap, one of many meteorological intrusions from sound designer Matt Corey. There's no storm outside, at least not one we can see or hear battering the windows of the set. But, like brief commentaries from Thor, jolts of thunder interrupt the action whenever the intensity in the room grows palpable.
As it punctuates confrontations with operatic theatricality, the lightning takes on metaphysical weight, much the same as the play's main character transforms from aspiring actress to pissed-off mythological goddess.
One of the hottest properties off and on Broadway for the past three years, David Ives's Venus in Fur is a dense, elegant deconstruction of a play within a play based on a book inspired by a goddess. It's an example of art imitating life imitating art until the imitations disappear, guards are surrendered, and anything can happen.
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Its execution places it firmly in the Theatre of Cruelty tradition, but its seemingly endless wellspring of ideas, provocations, surprises, and reversals makes just about every other contemporary play look like trifling fluff.