Rockwood brings “Venus in Fur” to Village PlayersWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Life is unfair.
2. Theatre is less fair than life.
3. Acting is the least fair part of theatre.
4. Humans submit themselves to nothing less fair than the audition.
It takes two to tango. — Idiom
It’s funny, it’s sexy, it’s insightful, it has something to say about the way people — particularly men and women — relate to one another. It is David Ives’ two-person piece “Venus in Fur,” a show which has gotten rave notices since it debuted in 2010, and been adapted to film by Roman Polanski in 2013. And it is a perfect addition to the canon of plays that local theater legend Jennifer Rockwood has brought to the stage during her career.
On February 6 and 7, a Rockwood-directed reading of “Venus in Fur” will take place at the Village Players theater on Upton Avenue, as part of the Players’ “Village After Dark” series. The show — about a director trying to cast an adaptation of an infamous novel, and being accosted by a late-arriving actress who is desperate to audition — has appealed to Rockwood for some time.
“It’s a power play. It’s sort of a tango, power play,” Rockwood said in an interview with Toledo Free Press.
“I think it’s a metaphor for anything you have to apply for or audition for. It’s about a woman a woman auditioning for a play, but it would be as if you were going for a job interview, or trying to get something, trying to get a job, trying to get an article, trying to get something. That’s kind of what it is.”
The show flirts with both sadomasochism and comedy during its run time, bringing an edgy quality that has come to define both Rockwood’s body of work and the work playwright Ives, whose plays Rockwood has brought to local stages before.
“I’ve already directed some of his work. I directed a play that he’s pretty famous for, because everybody in the world does it. It’s called ‘Time Flies,’ and it’s a series of skits and scenes that are very funny. He’s very good with language, and he’s very good with getting you to think one way, and then flipping it on you, just when you think you know what’s going on.”
But as with most of her work, Rockwood sees deeper into the piece than just its surface. “It uses that sort of as a metaphor for the things that we do to get a job, get a part in a play,” Rockwood said. “Clearly I understand these things, because being a director, you turn people away. Or, being an actress, auditioning and being able to go back and audition the next day, after being rejected.
“That’s the interesting thing about acting and theater. The people who do it have to want to keep doing it, even when people say no. And, in fact, I’ve been trying to do this play for three or four years. And nobody has wanted to do it, because of the subject matter — I think before they even read it, they’ve decided they don’t want to do it.”
Rockwood is not one to give up easily. And though the piece is a staged reading — meaning the actors will have scripts in hand, and only portions of the piece will be fully memorized — Rockwood has still worked to put her own stamp on proceedings, as she always has.
“We still go over it and over it. I like it to be completely sense memory of where they’re going, and what they’re doing, and why they’re doing what they’re doing, even though they’ll have the script to look back at. And they’re very good, the more they do it, they’re very good at not forgetting what they’re doing.”
It helps that Rockwood has collaborators ready to tackle such potentially difficult material. A two-person piece is tricky to even the best actors, and add in the layer of sexual tension “Venus” demands, and it could easily overwhelm a performer. Luckily, Rockwood’s actors — John DuVall and Christine D’Amato — have risen to the challenge.
“One of the actors [DuVall] I’ve worked with a lot before, and I trust him implicitly, and he takes direction well. I’m working with a brand-new actress [D'Amato], and she seems to take direction quite well. And one of the things a director looks for in auditions is a spark — something that happens between two actors onstage. And it did in auditions, and it’s happening now in rehearsals.”
And just a week away from Valentine’s Day, Rockwood hopes audiences will be ready for that kind of spark on the Village stage.
“The play is sexy. It’s sort of a dance between these two people, you want to call it a tango, because they’re sort of playing with each other, verbally.”
All tickets for “Venus in Fur” will be sold the day of the show. Tickets are $10. For more information, visit http://thevillageplayers.org/the-village-after-dark