Hail, Nina Arianda: After Two Years, Tony Nominee Prepares to Shed Venus in Fur
By Adam Hetrick
Tony Award nominee Nina Arianda is preparing to bid farewell to an old friend. She created the role of Vanda in David Ives' Tony-nominated two-hander Venus in Fur Off-Broadway in 2010, infusing the role with a capricious mix of carnal power and daft comic timing while becoming the toast of the town overnight.
Arianda repeated her work in the Broadway production opposite Hugh Dancy, which ran at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre last fall and resurfaced for an encore run at the Lyceum theatre in February. The tense, sexually-charged drama ends its Broadway run June 17, just a week after Arianda and Venus in Fur are up for top honors at the 66th Annual Tony Awards.
"I was so excited about the possibilities of Vanda," Arianda says of her first encounter with Ives' script. "The character is so layered and there are so many places to go with her. It's all in the script. I was really taken aback by that."
Arianda says she relies on sleep and a "heavy dose of coffee" to fuel her performance, one in which the actress hits the ground running the moment she walks through the door.
"It's also so exciting because it is a mystery," she adds. "I have that desire to keep investigating it. And, it really is true. I don't care how many times you do this show, you never really get it. You never really figure it all out - it's so different every night. That kind of curiosity keeps me going."
The actress also credits co-star Dancy for creating an air of trust on-stage and off. "I couldn't be more grateful that I have the opportunity to work with him on this. If you have that trust, you have the ability to explore the show in a playful way and have a sensitivity toward one another," she says.
Pointing out some of Venus in Fur's more emotionally vulnerable moments, she adds, "You go to some places in the show, and you have to have that kind of sensitivity with each other. Hugh is honestly one of the most generous people I've ever met in my life, and he's always there for me and so supportive."
While she has been portraying Vanda since the fall of 2010, Arianda says she continues to explore and discover along with Dancy nearly every night. "If I hear him say something differently, there's no where to go; it's two people locked in a room, you know what I mean? So, it informs me in a completely different way, and we both take notice of it and maybe we let that inform the next show," she says.
Audiences go on a dramatic roller coaster as Vanda and Thomas hash out a sexual power struggle that reverses numerous times in the blink of an eye. In addition to sex, magic and mystery hang ominously in the air.
Arianda says, "Doing this show is such a different experience in many ways. It's so moment by moment, that you're not only seeing live action and live art, you're actually seeing two people figure it out on stage. And whoever he is at the end he is, and whoever I am at the end I am, and it does change."
She adds coyly, "Sometimes I do know... and I'm not going to let anyone in on that either!"
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