Clare Morgan July 23, 2012
Uniformly brilliant ... Anthony Phelan and Hugo Weaving performing in New York.
The Sydney Theatre Company's production of Uncle Vanya has received glowing reviews after its opening at the New York City Centre as a part of the Lincoln Centre Festival at the weekend.
New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley has described the production, directed by Tamas Ascher, as "glorious", saying the Hungarian director has delivered "what may be the most profoundly physical, and physically profound, interpretation ever of this 1897 play".
Brantley continues: "Working with a cast that dares to spend most of its time onstage somewhere way out on a limb, Mr Ascher solves the eternal Chekhov conundrum that often brings strong directors to their knees."
Brantley says Andrew Upton has adapted the play into "a gritty, spontaneous-sounding vernacular".
He praises the "uniformly brilliant cast" of Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving, John Bell, Jackie Weaver, Sandy Gore, Hayley McElhinney, Anthony Phelan and Andrew Tighe.
He goes on: "The irrefutable fact of Ms Blanchett's uncommon loveliness has never been better used. I had never realised before how much Vanya is about the disruptiveness of sheer beauty."
When Brantley reviewed the production in Washington last year, he described the night as "among the happiest of my theatre-going life".
Theatre Mania reviewer Andy Propst writes that "thanks to an exceptional company ... this show simply stuns from beginning to end".
With Roxburgh's nuanced interpretation, "audiences genuinely feel that Vanya's regrets about having spent his life tending to the estate to subsidise the professor's career have a validity to them", he writes.
Roxburgh and Weaving "share a distinctly volcanic chemistry with Blanchett".
Bloomberg reviewer Jeremy Gerard singles out Roxburgh, who plays Vanya in "a raffish, libidinous performance of bottled rage that turns deeply moving when he finally explodes", and McElhinney's "nuanced, restrained performance" as Sonya. The production continues at the New York City Centre until Saturday.