Friday, January 20, 2017

Broadway Theater Review: The Present with Cate Blanchett

The Present
By Andrew Upton, based after Platonov by Anton Chekhov
Directed by John Crowley
Barrymore Theatre
Limited Broadway engagement through March 19

By Lauren Yarger
Right around the time I saw The Present on Broadway, I cam down with a killer flu and didn't get to write this review right away. By the time I sat down to catch up, I realized I was going to have dig out my notes on this adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Platanov, because I couldn't remember anything about it except that it starred movie star Cate Blanchett.

Usually not being able to remember the plot of a show I just saw is a bad thing when it comes to review writing, but in this case, I blame it on Chekhov, who isn't a favorite.

In fact, I rather enjoyed Andrew Upton's new take on the story, directed by John Crowley, which had me laughing out loud through a lot of it. Now that is something else unusual -- laughing during Chekhov, something I haven't done since Christopher Durang's Vanya, Sonya, Masha and Spike. This play isn't a sarcastic takeoff, it's just a rethinking of the original which includes some rather amusing moments.

Then there is Blanchett. She's a regal force on a stage, and I thought her performance as Russian landowner Anna was bold and mesmerizing, even if I don't recall what it was about. I kept thinking Queen Elizabeth (whom Blanchett portrayed on screen in two excellent movies) had arrived and frankly, that's pretty exciting for a Chekhov play. Broadway vet Richard Roxburgh gives a strong enough performance as Mikhail Platanov, a disillusioned school teacher. The story is depressing (life has three paths: the wolves eat you, you eat the wolves or you eat yourself) and contains a lot of dismissive dialogue about women. If you really want details, check out Spark Notes.....

But don't miss a chance to see Blanchett in action. She makes even Chekhov watchable.

The Present runs through March 19 at the Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th At., NYC.  Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm; Saturday at 1:30 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $59-$159:

Some bonus information:
Variously known as Platonov, Wild Honey, Fatherlessness and The Disinherited, Anton Chekhov’s first play was not discovered until 1920, some 16 years after the playwright’s death. Andrew Upton’s adaptation is set post-Perestroika in the mid-1990s at an old country house where friends gather to celebrate the birthday of the independent but compromised widow Anna Petrovna (Blanchett).

The show features the Sydney Theatre Company cast including Anna Bamford (Maria), Andrew Buchanan (Osip), David Downer (Yegor), Eamon Farren (Kirill), Martin Jacobs (Alexei), Brandon McClelland (Dimitri), Jacqueline McKenzie (Sophia), Marshall Napier (Ivan), Susan Prior (Sasha), Chris Ryan(Sergei) and Toby Schmitz (Nikolai).

Credits: Set and costume design by Alice Babidge,  lighting design by Nick Schlieper. Stefan Gregory is Sound Designer and Composer.

-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Language
-- Sexual activity
-- Sexually-charged dialogue

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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