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When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other is brutal, unsparing and made an audience member faint. How brilliant

If you love theatre and want to read a measured review of a play that you can go and see, stop right here. The play that I am talking about, Martin Crimp’s When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, which I feel could be the title of much of what I have sat through in the theatre, is one you are unlikely to see either. It is at the National Theatre and is completely sold out. Tickets could only be obtained by public ballot. It stars Cate Blanchett, who is of course bloody wonderful, and is full of sex and violence.

I am not a theatre buff (though I have been a film critic), but most of what I have seen in the theatre in the last 40 years has been mediocre beyond belief. I love Beckett and recently loved the Pinter revival. But what is so brilliant about Pinter is how much fear and menace he conjures just off stage. Every line a threat, every character is implicit in the horror. Its not in your face, it just gets in your head.

But that is not how to get middle-aged bums on expensive seats: instead promise something obscene and brutal, which is even more powerful when performed in a small, intimate space, as with this production. And this new play has already done what this sort of play should do. It has made someone pass out. Perhaps stars should be given based on how many people can be made to faint during any given production? Certainly this sounds five-star, involving as it does orgies in cars, sex toys and violence dished out by Game of Thrones star Stephen Dillane . Some have said it is extremely gross, with much violence meted out to women (is that a shock?), and Blanchett is being lauded as “brave” for portraying messed-up sex and violence. Keep reading »

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.” Keep reading »

The keenly focused intelligence and low-boil intensity that James Vanderbilt demonstrated in his screenplay for “Zodiac” are on impressive display in “Truth,” a portentously titled but duly absorbing, blow-by-blow account of the “Memogate” controversy that shamed CBS News, ended Dan Rather’s career as the network’s anchorman, and became a chastening historical footnote to the re-election of President George W. Bush. As Vanderbilt’s crisp, polished directorial debut takes pains to remind us, it also led to the downfall of “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes, cast here as the fierce, embattled heroine of a stomach-knotting newsroom thriller that plays like both a companion piece and a counterpoint to the more edifying “Spotlight”: It’s the feel-bad journalism movie of the year, a despairing last gasp for an era when substance mattered more than scandal. Complex, incisive and high-minded, sometimes to a fault, the Oct. 16 Sony Classics release should spin its juicy subject matter and lead turns by Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford into a solid commercial showing during another noisy election season; still, there remains a somewhat too-tidy fastidiousness to the picture that will keep it securely in the “pretty good” tier of 2015 prestige releases.

Introduced hiring a lawyer who will represent her during an internal investigation that CBS is conducting, Mapes initially comes across as a figure only moderately less wired and desperate than the Xanax-popping socialite Blanchett played in “Blue Jasmine.” It’s a slightly unflattering introduction in a picture that is otherwise fairly transparent about mounting a cinematic vindication of sorts for Mapes, whose 2005 book, “Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power,” provided the foundation for Vanderbilt’s screenplay. In short order, the film flashes back to April 2004, with the producer in her “60 Minutes” prime — a widely respected and accomplished figure in her field whose long-running collaboration with Rather (Redford) has just enjoyed a career peak with their groundbreaking report on Abu Ghraib. As Mapes herself notes with more objectivity than ego, their work is “the gold standard,” a bastion of investigative rigor in an industry that devotes less and less time and resources to serious news gathering. Keep reading »




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