Sexual heat is the last thing you associate with Manhattan Theatre Club; there's more erotic thrill in its lounge brownies than most mainstage offerings. But then, not every play features Nina Arianda in garters, bustier and testicle-squashing boots. Plenty of ink has already gushed over this gutsy comic newcomer, who burst onto the scene last year in the Classic Stage Company premiere of Venus in Fur, David Ives's clever meta-adaptation of the 1870 kink classic by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (the Austrian author who gave masochism its name). Arianda followed up that star-is-born turn as the blond vamp-simp of Born Yesterday and now she reprises her role as Vanda, the neurotic, mysterious actor who gives a last-minute nighttime audition for Thomas (Dancy), a repressed writer-director trying to bring Sacher-Masoch's novel to the stage.
For Broadway, director Walter Bobbie milks the script more; the action clocks in about ten minutes longer than it did at CSC. Although easing up on the accelerator gives us more time to savor the sensual-slapstick dance between Dancy and Arianda, it also means the climactic 20 minutes---as gender roles and power positions sharply flip—grow a tad overindulgently logy. Undaunted, Arianda maintains terrific tension at all times—as well as full comic release.—David Cote
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