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Jan 4, 2018 1:37 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Hampton Theatre Company Opens Timely And Relevant 'Venus In Fur' On January 11

Tristan Vaughan and Tina Jones in
Jan 8, 2018 10:02 AM

With 2017’s landslide of revelations regarding abuses of power in Hollywood, politics and the American workplace, the themes of David Ives’s “Venus in Fur” have become all the more relevant, said Diana Marbury, the director of the Hampton Theatre Company’s upcoming production opening Thursday, January 11, in Quogue.

A 2012 Tony nominee for Best Play, “Venus in Fur” centers on Thomas, a writer-director who is in the process of casting the lead actress in a new adaptation of the 1870 novel “Venus in Furs” by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, which, Ms. Marbury pointed out, led to the coining of the term “masochism.”

Thomas becomes increasingly frustrated over the struggle to find the right actress, but that changes when Vanda Jordan sits on his “casting couch.” What follows is a play within a play, with Thomas reading the male part and Vanda reading the role of Wanda, Ms. Marbury explained. The lines of reality are blurred and a game of domination and submission ensues, she said.

“This play has just been a wonderful and intriguing piece,” said Ms. Marbury, who also serves as artistic director of the theater company. “It challenges everyone—including the audience—giving them the opportunity of weaving their own tale because it is meta-theater.”

She saw the play during its run on Broadway, which starred Hugh Dancy opposite Nina Arianda, who won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play.

Although intrigued, Ms. Marbury said she was initially concerned about whether the Hampton Theatre Company’s audience would take well to the inherent “eroticism” of the play. However, she and her fellow board members decided it would be an excellent opportunity for a challenge.

The idea to bring it to the Hampton Theatre Company this season was cemented when she saw a one-night-only reading of “Venus in Fur” starring Tina Jones and Tristan Vaughan, both Equity actors living on the East End, at Guild Hall in East Hampton last April. Inspired by their performances, she was eager to give Ms. Jones and Mr. Vaughan the opportunity to truly sink their teeth into the material. The pair now star in the Hampton Theatre Company’s production.

Ultimately, the two actors play four characters total. Mr. Vaughan is both Thomas as well as Severin von Kushemski from “Venus in Furs” while Ms. Jones is Vanda and also Wanda. The challenge, explained Ms. Marbury, is figuring out if Vanda is who she says she is or from another world entirely.

“It’s an intriguing piece with many twists and turns,” Ms. Marbury said. “It’s a push and pull between the two—who’s got the power? And it sort of shifts between the two.”

Rehearsal proved to be a process of discovery in itself. By constantly breaking down the material and now staging it with full costumes and sets, Ms. Marbury said directing the play has been a revelatory experience.

In particular, she looks forward to seeing it performed in front of a live audience because of the play’s ability to make audience members active participants.

“It requires the audience in a sense to participate in trying to figure out exactly who these people are,” Ms. Marbury said. “We’ll see how our audience copes.”

Noting all the “sexual improprieties” taking over news headlines for the past year, Ms. Marbury believes “Venus in Fur” touches on the culture of the “casting couch” and turns it on its head.

“Is the woman or the man in control in situations—sexual situations?” she posed. “I think it’s a relevant piece to that fact. It touches on the control issue. Who’s the pursuer and who’s being pursued?”

But in the case of “Venus in Fur,” she said, the audience has the final interpretation.

“Venus in Fur” will be staged at Quogue Community Hall from January 11 to 28 with performances on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., and a matinée on Saturday, January 27, at 2:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit hamptontheatre.org or call OvationTix at 1-866-811-4111.

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