By Harry Haun
16 Jul 2012
Photo by Richard Termine
Ben Brantley of The New York Times led the critical charge on the nation's capital and returned rhapsodizing about the production. "I consider the three hours I spent on Saturday night watching [the characters] complain about how bored they are among the happiest of my theatregoing life," he trilled. "This Uncle Vanya gets under your skin like no other I have seen." The Washington Post critic, Peter Marks, crowned the show D.C.'s top theatrical event of 2011, and that was seconded by two of the city's prestigious Helen Hayes Awards — a Best Actress prize for Blanchett's Yelena, the trophy wife of a pompous academician pursued by two wannabe suitors, and a Best Supporting Actor award for Hugo Weaving's Astrov, one of the unlucky smitten.
|photo by Lisa Tomasetti|
The critical commotion caused by that single American engagement led to some serious second-thoughts about the New York market — even with Annie Baker's colloquial Uncle Vanya playing simultaneously to appreciative, packed houses at Soho Rep through Aug. 26. Eventually, Lincoln Center Festival found a suitable slot at New York City Center (July 19-28) and crooked its finger, signaling the original Sydney cast to come a-running. They did, intact and en masse, and now Brantley can revise his valentine to "one of the best and bravest actresses on this planet." "Now, let's hope he remembers what he said," Blanchett cracked wisely. "I'm delighted it turned out this way. It was always about finding the right venue at the right time, synchronizing the tour with everybody's schedules. Last year we were very disappointed it couldn't be worked out because we love New York audiences."
The Sydney Theatre Company is a theatre-based launching pad that has sent more than Blanchett into the cinematic stratosphere. Weaving, who was Elrond to her Galadriel in the "Hobbit"/"Rings" cycles and Judge Brack to her Hedda Gabler, hit Hollywood pay-dirt with "Captain America" and the "Matrix" movies. Vanya's ancient nanny, Jacki Weaver, stepped out of nowhere into the Oscar running a few years back for her scene-stealing support in "Animal Kingdom." When Blanchett first hit her award-courting stride in the early '90s, it was on the stage in Sydney opposite Geoffrey Rush in Oleanna and as Ophelia to Richard Roxburgh's Hamlet.