Venus in Fur

Premiering at the Classic Stage Theatre in NYC in 2010, Venus in Fur finally made its way to the Albertan backwaters and The Citadel’s Shoctor Theatre, where I took the opportunity to check it out yesterday evening.

This play-within-a-playi takes place in modern-day New York City on the second floor of a sweatshop-turned-acting-studio, in the midst of one of those cliché dark and stormy nights, during a first-reading of the male protagonist’s adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’sii 1870 novel Venus in Furs.

There, on an unchanging set, we find two characters, each playing two distinct roles, for a total of four heads to keep track of. Director-playwright Thomas Novachek (one of the characters, not the actual director-playwright of the production) “auditions” as the submissive cuckhold Herr Severin von Kushemski, opposite of whom is the grungy but well read businesswoman/actress Vanda Jordan, who “auditions” as the reluctantly dominant Wanda (Vanda) von Dunayev. As you might be able to tell from these character descriptions alone, Venus in Fur is a slightly-more-risqué-than-average (but still light-hearted) tale of literature, role-playing, and romance banging.

For this particular production, the fair Alana Hawleyiii took centre stage alongside Jamie Cavanaghiv for the 90-minute performance and right off the bat I liked Novachek’s character for his dismissal of unfeminine women while equally and oppositely disliking Vanda’s character for her lower-class, Queens-esque, belly-aching nasaliness. However, to the credit of both the actors and the script, these initial impressions weren’t to remain intact for long.

Throughout the show, the two (four?) characters changed dramatically as they romanced one another and alternately swapped roles between that of dominant and submissive, all the while invoking enough classical literary references to keep even the jaded aristocrats entertained, and ultimately leaving the audience with the sense that it was all just a passionate, fantastical, Hegelian dream. I mean was she Aphrodite or an undercover agent or what ?

This suspension of reality, peppered throughout the piece as it was, was a necessary literary device seeing as how much of the behaviour of the characters was up past its gills in post-post-modern braindamage.v Seriously now, what kind of cuckolded beta-male is going to blow off his fiancée on four separate occasions with excuses as contrived as “I’m leaving in a minute” and “I’ll grab some dinner on the way home” only to, well, not do any of those things – as if his vertebrae had materialised ex nihilo just as soon as he picked up the phone, only to have his backbone dissipate into the eternal ether just as soon as he hung up again ? You can’t have it both ways, I’m sorry.

You can’t have a dude with less spinal constitution than a jellyfish being caught between two worlds. What kind of biological mutant are we talking about here ? A submissive is a submissive and a dominant is a dominant. These are biological functions we’re talking about here, not baseless pronouncements of -ism’ing and -ist’ing akin to Facebook status updates. It’s not like we magically live in a world where butterflies are catching humans with big conical nets and pinning the pink-skinned bastards to boards under glass cases. Or a world where candles are attracted to moths instead of the other way around, and sometimes said candles feel like being moths for a week or two and so materially become such. Having Novachek’s character do anything other than align his sail to the breeze is a bit of a stretch, if we’re to believe that he’s any sort of suprasensual Untermensch.

While I grant that many, if not most, people have elements of both submissiveness and dominance in their characters (depending entirely on with whom their interaction is with), it’s hard to swallow that some pathetic scum-guzzler so addled with crippling, cuckholding jealous nihilismvi would ever in a hundred million years be capable of turning his master on her head with less effort than it takes him to, well, flip a switch. What sort of nonsense is this ?

It’s all well and good that the theatre is the theatre, but if you’re going to unearth supposedly dark and repressed aspects of our human condition, which I readily admit exist and am eagerly willing to explore through the arts, then make it coherent, don’t tie it up with the sinking ship of the naiveté du jour of “men are just like women and vice versa except for their naughty bits.” What is this, 1985 ? Or hell, 1785 ?

Ultimately, while the ancient, monastic idea that weakness is power carries some measure of appeal on its face and is certainly in vogue in the western world today,vii it’s patently ludicrous, castrating, and nothing short of abject enslavement when explored in any detail worth the mention. How very ironic that that which claims to abolish something to evil can only do so via the same mechanism. Sorta defeats the point, y’know ?

Suffice to say that the theatre, and art in general, is ready for disruption.viii

It’s a mighty fine and respectable thing that there are nuclear weaponsix aiming themselves in precisely that direction, wouldn’t you say ?

___ ___ ___

  1. How meta, neh ?
  2. Sacher-Masoch is recognised as the namesake of “masochism” but I have to admit that his name makes me think only of my Romanian grandmother’s inimitable Sachertorte. She was very much of the Austro-Hungarian school of baking.

    But really, what other schools of thinking and doing of any description did a mid-20th century Romanian joo have ? It’s not like socialism, be it in the former Soviet bloc or France or Canada or whatever, have produced anything of value that could be meaningfully teased apart from the overwhelming heaps of utter refuse. As they say, if someone takes a dump on your dinner, why bother to pick the pieces of shit out when you can just remake the whole dish ?

  3. Whom I’d never seen before and don’t particularly care one way or another if I ever see again. She played her role with some measure of power but not enough to be believable. When she had her hand around Jamie’s neck, at the height of her “dominance,” she should’ve choked the living fuck out of him, not mimed it like, well, a girl.

    James MacDonald, the director, is ultimately to blame for the embarrassingly pedestrian physicality of this show. He’s quite remiss for allowing his actors, yes his actors, for passing off this infirmity as acting. ‘Twas nothing short of insulting to the audience. And if “the average seatwarmer in attendence doesn’t notice and doesn’t care how convincing we are on the stage” then fuck them. This is art, is it not ? Have some pride in your work. Don’t just pretend to slap each other goddamit… SLAP EACH OTHER!!!1 If you’re not going to go all the way, particularly in a play ostensibly about power and more power, don’t bother. Stay at home in your bubble bath, playing with your yellow rubber ducky and watching re-runs of Family Matters, and leave the outside world to the adults. We’ll be fine without you.

    The Citadel is supposed to be Edmonton’s premier live theatre venue and yet… they pull these kinds of half-baked stunts. Seriously now, you wouldn’t get away with such poverty of character at nearby Victoria School of the Arts, a freaking grade school theatre.

    But back to Alana, I’ll give the girl credit for being very comfortable in her own skin and able to jump between accents at the drop of a hat. She’s even not half-bad to look at, though the lingerie they tucked her into was a bit tame for my taste. But hey, there were plenty of senior citizens in the audience and I doubt if any of them had a pacemaker as solid as Dick Cheney’s.

  4. Who pretty much won me over for life with his role as Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet last season, even though he was just ok in East of Berlin.
  5. It’s a script written in the last 10 years, what did I expect, an uncivilised breath of fresh air ? Ha!
  6. To quote myself on the matter of nihilism :

    Those who oppose the suffering to come, those nihilists awash in self-loathing, will suffer the most. For long enough, nihilism, the Apolline philosophy of utilitarianism and scientific rationalism descended from Plato and Socrates, has repressed the aesthetic considerations of  Dionysian philosophy – that which treasures life, beauty, and art. This 2,000-year-old revolt against the balance between creation and destruction is based on nothing but scientific “truth,” and the notion that science is, and will be, the panacea for all social problems. This is everywhere evident, from discussions of artificial intelligence and technological transcendence to automated cars and phablets. The world stagnates in this sea of golden calves.

    This is what Bitcoin struggles against: the Greek God Apollo. This is what greatness struggles against.

  7. As exemplified by the “Think of Africa” moral high-card. Or should I say “moral high-card,” that VERY temporary pass as spewing bullshit purposes and wholly ignoring inconvenient causes. Because reasons. Fucking slave morality, this.
  8. To quote MP directly from Ok, so what is Bitcoin disrupting ? :

    IV. Art. Yes, it goes all the way. As discussed in What is art, art merely exists as the manifestation of the power of the sovereign. The fact that Bitcoin became one just at the time everyone else lost the status practically means that every single piece you thought was valuable became worthless, and worthless items are now valuable. They’re all objectively just as worthless, of course, but that is entirely besides the point : the lordship lists enacts art, and unless you’re on that list, or a client of someone on that list you’re not holding on to a piece of art, but to a piece of garbage.

    Yes, you might be able to negotiate a place for historical artefacts in there, but learn from the failure of the “venture capitalists” : you must submit, humbly, abjectly, right now. If you delay, your garbage can go in a bin just as special as the one holding Andreessen Horowitz’ “business” paper.

  9. What nuclear weapons might these be ? Allow me to re-publish a recent convo (lightly edited for readability) that highlights the power of nukes :

    the_scourge: The question is, have NRx found out that we actually live in a world where ‘nuclear’ weapons don’t do anything? That’s potentially one of the corellaries to the entire argument .
    pete_d: I’ve read more Xeno* than UR**, it so happens. And nuclear weapons most definitely do something. We’re essentially assembled here [in #bitcoin-assets] to make sure WMDs do something productive.

    the_scourge: Because most don’t quite understand the point. I kinda get the perceived problem (thanks to alf) but the solution, while cool, hasn’t struck me as nuclear (yet).
    pete_d: It does take a significant amount of interest in investing, monetary history, politics, to grasp.
    the_scourge: Yah, I thought I had a modicum of those things and while I totally grasp it, my age + intution is doing this thing saying: “It would never pan out like that anyways.”
    pete_d: Huh funny thing that intuition sometimes. Mine told me the exact opposite.

    mircea_popescu: The nuclear part is explained here :
    assbot: Logged on 21-01-2015 23:53:56; mircea_popescu: jurov for what it’s worth, here’s my experience with bitcoin remittances : I sent BTC to -OTC correspondents, ordered wires sent out to the HK account of my local agent, who has paid me dollars, in cash, in Argentina. The entire process took less than what it takes to get a letter of credit, and significantly less than what international trade normally settles in.

    the_scourge: But I need to formulate my concerns. It’s mostly to do with … if you’ve succeeded in preserving a clean, elegant, un-pwnable bitcoind variant, then all the poser cyperpunks GTFO, leaving only a small minority of (VERY valuable BTC) who are then in a VERY phys-sec vulnerable position. But I need to write this out in a better way ^. Reading link.
    pete_d: Ya the “phys-sec” thing is something I’ve heard about for years and years now.*** To which bitcoin responds: 1) deniability, and 2) fuck you.

    mircea_popescu: Yeah. Me too. Specifically : here. Most recently,
    assbot: Logged on 31-01-2015 01:25:17; mircea_popescu: so no, when i’m talking about hanging each and every us bureaucrat, through a war crimes court, within our lifetime i am not being in any sense and to any degree metaphorical.
    mircea_popescu: but more generally,
    assbot: Georg Ritter von Flondor, and what his unhappy life can teach us pe Trilema – Un blog de Mircea Popescu.

    pete_d: Did the kings and aristocrats that NRx’ers so rose-tintedly adore stay under their sheets all day ?
    mircea_popescu: Mno.
    pete_d: Right. So why would we, their heirs ?
    mircea_popescu: Anyway : the only people in a very untenable phys-sec position are the various bureaucrats, US or otherwise. We’ll be fine.
    pete_d: It’s worth noting that most people “in Bitcoin” tremble in fear a lot.
    the_scourge: Reading.
    pete_d: Mostly because that’s what they’ve always done.
    the_scourge: Woah deja vue.

    pete_d: This is where we flip the table and say, “Now hold on just a minute. If we have the power, and we do, who should be scared of who now ?”
    the_scourge: I remember seeing that war crimes comment a LONG time ago. And I’m pretty sure I came in here to ask about it…
    pete_d: Hang out here long enough and your fears about phys-sec (and most other things) slowly dissipate.
    mircea_popescu: If you did log probably has the line somewhere.

    the_scourge: What… how are we the heirs???
    pete_d: I suppose this is another admonition not to use “we.”
    mircea_popescu: Jews don’t understand this heritage concept like normal people.****
    pete_d: Lol so it would seem.
    the_scourge: Ok hang on. Are you REALLY saying that greed is more powerful than delusion (or religion)? because if you want to buy hitmen or hold the entire world ransom to a dirty bomb or nuclear warheads, you’re going to 1. have to find really fucking greedy nuclear engineers and/or suicide bombers and/or military guys
    mircea_popescu: You don’t understand how the world works :)


    *Nick Land’s blog
    **Moldbug’s blog
    ***Literally, the “Oh we can’t let anyone know how rich we are because they’ll hurt us” schtick was a common topic at my local meet-ups… in early 2013. They, of course, belonged with “the community.” I, of course, belong with Bitcoin.
    ****This is a point. That I see myself as the torch-bearer of the wisdom of Abraham and Moses, the Greeks, Maimonides, Spinoza, Burke, Taleb, and (whisper it because he reads these pages more regularly than the rest of them) Popescu, is probably a bit unusual.

5 thoughts on “Venus in Fur

  1. […] out said bankers with other peoples’ (read: your) money. Really, it’s a whole lot of theatre, […]

  2. […] the theatre where I also took in the much less humourous, edgy, and entertaining Venus in Fur. […]

  3. […] is also what gives me credibility when I say that actors in either theatre or film aren’t cutting the mustard. I know what the fuck I’m talking about. So when I […]

  4. […] That an American is proposing a “pre-emptive strike” to prevent the consequences of some boogeyman is no coincidence, it’s de facto USG policy, lest we forget the sorry story of America’s lost decade in Iraq on account of their scapegoating Herr Saddam Hussein. Remember him ? The guy who didn’t actually have WMDs ? […]

  5. […] solo, that he swings possibly every way there is, and that he’s not a terribly convincing switch. […]

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