She got the part.
Greta Wohlrabe, a Vanda who plays Vanda, auditioned for a role for Thomas the director.
And she got the part.
Itâ€™s the play within the play of "Venus in Fur," the dazzling David Ives play that opened at the Milwaukee Repâ€™s Stiemke Studio theaterÂ FridayÂ 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.
Madiganâ€™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 heâ€™s seen are right for the role of Vanda von Dunayev.
He is about to leave for home whenÂ 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.Â
She also raises Thomasâ€™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 Thomasâ€™s heart beat faster. They continue to read, alternating between Kushemski and Thomas and Vanda and Vanda.Â
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.Â
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 werenâ€™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.Â
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.Â
"Venus in Fur" runs throughÂ 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 April 22, 2017
For 15 years, under the guidance of art therapist Lori Vance, ExYoMKE has gone one-on-one with some of the most disaffected children in Milwaukee, children of all races and genders, and tried to help them see the world through the eyes of an artist.
Published April 22, 2017
One of the most wonderful evenings at a theater is when the show starts on a high note and just keeps getting better and better until you get to an ending where your heart is lying on the floor and your eyes are clouded with tears. That's "Carnival."
Published April 21, 2017
"The Fantasticks" is a simple little musical, the longest running in history, about a boy and a girl and being in love. The problem in the Off the Wall Theatre production is that the boy can't hold up his end of the deal, and the whole production suffers.
Published April 20, 2017
When I'm moved, I write, and fortunately, with OnMilwaukee, I have a place for that writing. The series of Uber tales from the road have run intermittently, but this story, more than anything else, proved that words and social media have the power to spark action, to make a real difference.
Published April 18, 2017
There is nothing quite like the world of the carnies, who travel the country, state fair after state fair, luring spectators with claims of wonder and magic. And that world is coming to Milwaukee, believe it or not, in the tiny space at In Tandem Theatre.
Published April 15, 2017
What does it take to make a man great and what role do expectations, his and others, have on that quest? It's the issue before the house in "Great Expectations," the adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel that opened at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.
Published April 13, 2017
In Wisconsin, you can't bake cookies or cakes or brownies at home and legally sell them at a farmer's market or your kids' lemonade stand. But three women are fighting the law with the help of the powerful Institute for Justice.
Published April 13, 2017
Downtown Milwaukee will be getting a strip club, which could open well before the Bucks' new arena in 2018, thanks to a measure that is expected to win Common Council approval next week.
Published April 11, 2017
The preparation for the 2017 Footlights Performing Arts Awards has been underway for a year, with public nominations being submitted. The results are in, and well, there are some odd competitions.
Published April 9, 2017
The second act roars to life and makes "The Violet Hour" at Renaissance Theaterworks a must see this season. The bifurcation of this Richard Greenberg piece is stunning in contrast and makes the effort of sitting through the first act a worthwhile endeavor.