After her raging success in Tennessee Williams’ "A Streetcar Named Desire," actress Cate Blanchett is tackling another formidable stage classic for her follow-up — Chekhov’s "Uncle Vanya," which opened this week at the Sydney Theatre Company in Australia.
Blanchett plays Yelena opposite Hugo Weaving as Astrov and Richard Roxburgh in the title role. The production, which runs through Jan. 1, is directed by the Hungarian Tamás Ascher and uses an adaptation by Andrew Upton, who is Blanchett’s husband. (The couple currently serve as co-artistic directors of the theater company.)
Using vaguely modern dress and a fashionably dilapidated set, the staging evokes the world of landed gentry in czarist Russia before the turn of the century. The story follows the romantic permutations of a group of tenants on a country estate following the arrival of Professor Serebryakov (John Bell) and his much younger wife, Yelena (Blanchett).
You can see a few brief scenes from the production in the video trailer above. (No word yet if the show will tour, as "Streetcar" did last season.) Reviews of the play have been generally positive, with the ensemble work singled out for praise.
The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jason Blake called the production "a clear, supple and lively exploration of terminal decline." As for Blanchett, the critic wrote that "her playing of Yelena’s contradictory mass of feelings is finely graded and funny, typified by the moment when she silently points an imaginary pistol at the back of Serebryakov’s head. Her farewell scene with Astrov is a rom-com mini-masterclass."
John McCallum of the Australian desribed the production as "superb" and the cast as "stellar." He wrote that "Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving have a marvellous chemistry as the only two people in the world of this play who can match each other."
Blanchett, who continues to juggle her film career with her stage responsibilities, is scheduled to appear at the Sydney Theatre Company in late 2011 in a production of Botho Strauss’ "Big and Small," directed by Luc Bondy.