Venus OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Sara Krulwich
  • NY TIMES

  • TIME OUT

Opening Night:
May 15, 2017
Closing:
June 4, 2017

Theater: Signature Theatre / 555 West 42nd. St., New York, NY,

Synopsis: 

Traveling from her home in southern Africa for what she hoped would be a better life, Saartjie Baartman became an unfortunate star on the 19th Century London freak show circuit. This Obie Award-winning play gives vibrant life to the story of Baartman’s journey to London, her rise to fame as the “Hottentot Venus,” and her eventual relationship with a French scientist. Inspired by the true story of Baartman, Venus is a tragic-carnival, an intense and devastating journey honoring the life of Baartman and examining the way we live and love today.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Venus

    ‘Venus’ Recalls a Woman’s Fortune, and Her Ruin

    Ben Brantley

    May 15, 2017:

    Attention, please, those of you whose greatest ambition is to acquire the traffic-stopping body of Kim Kardashian. There is a less drastic alternative to costly and dangerous buttocks implants.

    To wit: the fulsomely padded body stocking that is being modeled with flair and poignancy by Zainab Jah in the title role of Suzan-Lori Parks’s “Venus,” which opened in a patchy revival on Monday night at the Pershing Square Signature Center. It’s doubtful as to how comfortable such a stocking is as 24-hour wear. But it has the great advantage of not being permanent.

    Ms. Jah is portraying a once-famous figure whose form was her fortune — and her ruin. That’s Saartjie (or Sarah) Baartman, a South African-born woman celebrated and reviled in early-19th-century Europe as Venus Hottentot, presented as a sideshow novelty guaranteed to “dazzle, surprise, intrigue, horrify and disgust.”

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  • TIME OUT NEW YORK REVIEW OF Venus

    Venus

    Sandy MacDonald

    May 15, 2017:

    In the two decades since its Public Theater debut, Suzan-Lori Parks’s Venus has lost none of its power to unsettle and appall. If anything, the story of Saartjie Baartman’s exploitation at the hands of early-19th-century human traffickers—some venal, some high-minded—has gained in shock value. Its current revival, directed by Lear deBessonet as part of Parks’s retrospective residency at the Signature, is devastating.

    A young Khoikhoi woman from southern Africa, Baartman (Zainab Jah) traveled to London in 1810 with visions of earning a mint as a “dancing African princess”; instead, dubbed the Hottentot Venus, she became celebrated attraction at the freak shows then in vogue. The focus was on her formidable, steatopygous rump (conveyed here by a skin-toned bodysuit that is donned in plain sight): poke-bait to curiosity seekers of all castes. At the Venus’s unveiling, a septet of ensemble cast members are done up as Crayola-coiffed toffs. Who are the real freaks here?

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