When Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh fall for each other, it rarely ends well. Dynasties crumple. Lives smash. Murder can follow. Or suicide. Sometimes both.
But these Australian actors, who have performed opposite each other for more than 20 years, seemed in rude health at a recent weekday brunch. On a break from rehearsals for “The Present,” an adaptation of an early Anton Chekhov play now in previews at the Barrymore Theater, they nestled in a corner booth at the Russian Samovar and listened to a waiter describe infused vodkas. “You cannot leave this place without trying many,” the waiter demanded.
“We have to do this,” Roxburgh said.
“We have to try this,” Blanchett concurred.
“Out of respect for Chekhov,” Roxburgh said.
Tipsy or sober, they do have a helpless reverence for Chekhov and a shared history with his plays. They played Nina and Trigorin in “The Seagull” in 1997 (dead child, wrecked life). They reunited as Yelena and Vanya for “Uncle Vanya” in 2010 (attempted murder, attempted suicide). Ben Brantley described this three-hour Sydney Theater Company production as “among the happiest of my theatergoing life.”
They’re reuniting for “The Present,” a hectic and sometimes wrenching comedy directed by John Crowley (“Brooklyn,” “The Pillowman”). When it had its première in Sydney, The Daily Telegraph called it “blisteringly brilliant.”
Adapted by Andrew Upton, Blanchett’s husband, it is a bold and boldly comic rendering of Chekhov’s first full-length play, never performed in his lifetime and discovered in a safe-deposit box in 1920, 16 years after his death. In its original form, the manuscript is an untitled, fragmented, 300-page muddle of a melodrama, most often called “Platonov.” Read More