August 9, 2011
THE Sydney Theatre Company has received its warmest welcome yet to the US, with critics at The New York Times and The Washington Post praising the company’s latest tour, the star-studded production of Uncle Vanya.
Times chief theatre critic Ben Brantley, an avowed fan of STC co-artistic director Cate Blanchett, who stars in the play, described the hours spent watching the play as “among the happiest of [his] theatre-going life”.
That’s high praise given the breadth and depth of the veteran critic’s theatre experience.
Post critic Peter Marks described the “intoxicating, go-for-broke” Uncle Vanya as “emotionally in touch” and as extraordinary as STC’s “astonishing” version of A Streetcar Named Desire that was staged two years ago in Washington and New York.
Unlike most previous STC tours to the US, Uncle Vanya will not play New York and will only be staged in Washington, where it opened at the Kennedy Centre on Saturday night after two nights of previews.
Tickets are still available for the three-week season in the 1100-seat Eisenhower Theatre, with tickets priced between $US59 and $US139 ($56 and $132).
The show, which had its premiere in Sydney late 2010, was directed by Hungarian director Tamas Ascher from a new script by co-artistic director Andrew Upton.
The ensemble cast was anchored by Blanchett, who last week won a Helpmann award for the role, with John Bell, Hugo Weaving, Jacki Weaver, Hayley McElhinney, Richard Roxburgh, Anthony Phelan and Sandy Gore.
Brantley was in awe of Blanchett’s “brilliant daredevil performance” as a “chipped trophy wife”, saying this version of Uncle Vanya “gets under your skin like no other I have seen”. He said she was the obvious drawcard and her performance “confirms her status as one of the best and bravest actresses on the planet”.
He also heaped high praise on Roxburgh and the entire ensemble.
“They all give thoroughly detailed physical performances, in which you always feel both the chafe and dubious comfort of domestic intimacy,” Brantley wrote.