The first show of the 2017 spring Broadway season premiered Sunday night, and it stars a major Hollywood heavy hitter: Cate Blanchett in Anton Chekhov's "The Present." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
"The Present" is a wonderfully messy play about the messiness of life. It is an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's first work discovered — untitled — years after his death.
And if the text, written by the playwright at age 18, lacks dramatic discipline, it is loaded with the wit, wisdom, and great gobs of humor that marked the masterpieces to come.
Happily, the Sydney Theatre Company put a contemporary spin on the 19th Century manuscript, turning Chekhov's flawed tragicomedy into a masterful production.
And if that's not enough, it's led by two stellar performances that must not be missed: Cate Blanchett and her frequent co-star Richard Roxburgh, heading a bravura ensemble of 13 recreating their roles from the original Sydney production.
It's set in the 1990s featuring techno pop music, a boombox, and pagers, but there's no doubt this is Chekhov country, ruled by boredom and unrequited love. An odd group of friends and family have gathered at a Russian estate to celebrate the 40th birthday of Anna, a beautiful widow desperate for stimulation.
The polite dynamic between her guests degenerates as vodka flows and hair comes down. And in Andrew Upton's wildly animated adaptation, directed with great gusto by John Crowley, truth spills out in waves of regret, anger, and laughter.
To Chekhov, life is, after all, a human comedy, and Blanchett, delivering with humorous abandon and heartbreak, is incomparably divine. Roxburgh is a perfect match as an insanely hopeless playboy deprived of true love.
Typical of novice playwrights, young Chekhov overstuffed his three-hour first play, and it is muddled, especially in the first scene.
But just watch as comedy and tragedy collide in this unhappy household, and suddenly boredom never felt so entertaining.