She got the part.
Greta Wohlrabe, a Vanda who plays Vanda, auditioned for a role for Thomas the director.
And she got the part.
It’s the play within the play of "Venus in Fur," the dazzling David Ives play that opened at the Milwaukee Rep’s Stiemke Studio theater Friday night.
Wohlrabe and Rep Associate Artist Reese Madigan weave a spell on this stage that when the play was over, I felt myself blinking back to reality.
Madigan’s Thomas is the playwright and director of a production he has adapted from a 19th century novel that's focused on both sadism and masochism. He's been cloistered for the whole day in a dank room, conducting auditions. And so far, none of the 35 actresses he’s seen are right for the role of Vanda von Dunayev.
He is about to leave for home when a rain-soaked blonde comes crashing through the door. It is Vanda (coincidentally) Jordan, one of thousands of New York hungry actors. She caught a heel in a sewer grate, was semi-molested on the train and is hours late, but she's determined to make Thomas give her a chance. As she strips to a black corset, garter belt and black stockings, she raises peals of laughter from the audience.
She also raises Thomas’s interest enough that he gives her a chance. He reads the part of Severin von Kushemski; she reads Vanda.
And it turns out that Vanda has a grip on this character and talent that makes Thomas’s heart beat faster. They continue to read, alternating between Kushemski and Thomas and Vanda and Vanda.
The simple thing to do would be to look at this as just another story of seduction with a little S&M thrown in for good measure. Lots of laughs plus some sexy skin and lingerie.
But the play is so much more in the hands of director Laura Gordon.
She has a clear understanding that "Venus in Fur" is really a mysterious portrayal of the battle between the sexes and the battles we fight with ourselves. There are so many complexities and layers to this play that I intend to see it again, not as a reviewer but as a curious fan. I rarely do that.
There would be nothing for us to grasp onto if it weren’t for two magnificent performances.
Madigan, a Rep favorite, suitably and subtly captures the essence of the tortured artist. His range, from angry at the world to tender and light as a leaf caught on a summer breeze, is exciting.
Wohlrabe takes the role of Vanda to an unexpected and thrilling level.
Hers is a towering performance, ranging with the delicious humor of Vanda the struggling actor to the aristocratic vamp of Vanda the character. She has a body and face to die for, and an unmistakable gift for physical comedy. But she can be aloof without being stuffy and cutting without the hard edge of cruelty.
In 2010, she was an acting intern at the Rep and has moved on to a variety of prestigious companies, not the least of which is the American Players Theatre in Spring Green.
We can only hope that she stays here in Wisconsin, but I fear New York may beckon, and she will be gone.
"Venus in Fur" runs through Nov. 3. Information is available at milwaukeerep.com.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Dave Begel
Published Feb. 28, 2015
Being in sixth grade can be a real problem time, full of the turbulence of hopes and fears all at the same time. First Stage captures the whole thing in "Big Nate: The Musical."
Published Feb. 26, 2015
After losing a half-million-dollar judgement, the City of Milwaukee is looking at ways to avoid paying the money. One of the solutions being explored is granting Silk a license in exchange for dropping the lawsuit.
Published Feb. 24, 2015
Sports movies are among the greatest films ever made, so what better time to list the top 14 sports movies of all time than right after the Oscars?
Published Feb. 20, 2015
"God of Carnage" is a biting comedy about two couples who turn from civilized to animals before our very eyes. But when two of the actors can't remember their lines, the evening turns out to be a real dud.
Published Feb. 19, 2015
The owners Silk Exotic today won a big victory in federal court as a jury awarded them a judgement of almost half a million dollars for revenue lost because the city would not grant them a license for a Downtown strip club.
Published Feb. 19, 2015
Domestic violence is something that most of us think doesn't touch those close to us. But in fact this familial violence cuts across all economic, social, geographic and ethnic boundaries.
Published Feb. 17, 2015
Bo Ryan has been coaching for 30 years in Wisconsin and he's had success wherever he's been. What's more, he's done it with a unique coaching style that features a deliberate offense and a tenacious defense that has the Badgers ranked among the best teams in the country.
Published Feb. 15, 2015
"Bare: A Pop Opera" is a play that seems to have some potential. But when you actually see it, the story seems so dated that it's hard to grab onto the message.
Published Feb. 14, 2015
"The Amish Project" is a play about a murderous shooting in a one-room schoolhouse that took place in 2006. The message behind the play is the incredible sense of forgiveness of the community that had been so victimized. It makes you wonder how each of us would react.
Published Feb. 12, 2015
Scott Walker is busy running for president and that campaign means he's got to curry favor with rich guys. Sheldon Adelson, the casino emperor, is a rich guy who hates the idea of a casino in Kenosha. And Governor Walker is trying to keep this guy happy.