The Philadelphia Theatre Company knocks David Ives’ ‘Venus in Fur’ out of the ballpark. Do you like sex? Kink? Kinky boots? Psychoanalytic Theory? Then, go see Philadelphia Theatre Company’s ‘Venus in Fur.’
I studied Venus in Furs back in graduate school and spent hours listening to brilliant psychoanalytic professors breakdown Deleuzian theory for me. Venus is one of those high concept texts, like Beloved, that’s practically unadaptable. So, when David Ives’ contemporary revision hit Off-Broadway in 2010, I greatly considered attending … but didn’t. This is the thing. I lived breathed, read and re-read that novel, Sade, Jelinek, Rochester, and anything even vaguely related to sexual kink. Could a contemporary adaptation even come vaguely close? The original 1870 text penned by Sacher-Masoch surrounds wide-eyed innocent Severin, who begs his idealized lover, Wanda, to either marry or dominate him. Unsurprisingly, she chooses the latter. The novel traverses their increasingly sadomasochistic relationship while it grows amazingly fantasist. Severin dreams of a female polar bear clawing his body. His lover’s Black female servants tie him to a plow and whip him. In the end, Wanda’s lover, The Greek, whips the shit out of him while she watches. Seriously. HOW do you put that on without OFFENDING EVERYBODY? How do you put that on while maintaining the utter AWESOMENESS of the original source material? Luckily, playwright David Ives and The Philadelphia Theatre Company have the answer.