Members say: Great acting, Slow, Disappointing, Absorbing, Ambitious

About the show

Two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh succumb to the intoxicating power of lust and obsession in the Sydney Theatre Company’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s first play, 'Platonov.'

... Read more

'The Present' unfolds over the course of a raucous weekend birthday celebration in the 1990s Russian countryside. Old flames ignite in this passionate and bitingly comic play. 'The Present' is adapted by Banchett's husband, writer Andrew Upton. Their multi-year tenure leading the Sydney Theatre Company included such watershed productions as' A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'Uncle Vanya.' This strictly limited engagement marks the Broadway debuts of both Blanchett and Roxburgh.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"Sprawling and confused adaptation of a sprawling and confused play...This production feels moribund from the beginning. Frantic attempts at resuscitation by Ms. Blanchett and her valiant leading man, a tireless Richard Roxburgh as a hapless homme fatale, only occasionally succeed in eliciting a pulse...These people want to blow up their world, and in a way they do, most entertainingly. That leaves us with another full hour of tediously sorting through the ashes." Full Review


"Upton and Crowley have the benefit of a stellar company of actors...Blanchett dominates the stage like a hurricane: All people and events revolve around her inescapable pull...Crowley shrewdly directs the play like the comedy it was meant to be, drawing humor from the occasionally cheesy dialogue and awkward silences...Through a fresh set of circumstances, Upton captures the spirit of Chekhov's dark humor much better than a more traditional production." Full Review


"A sparkling production...The spirit of Chekhovian farce shines bright, and the ensemble work of this Aussie company is just grand...Blanchett turns out to be a consummate comic actress, and Roxburgh her perfect foil, allowing the scene to swing from passion to painfully funny pathos...Crowley handles the directing chores with an impressively light touch, keeping this army of characters circling one another like moths obsessively courting their flames without letting them get burned." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"If the politics of this Platonov revamp are apt enough, the drama still founders on the play’s inability to link them convincingly to the nearly farcical social comedy of individuals at loose ends. Partly this is because the production, directed somewhat bumpily by John Crowley, keeps the politics at bay for too long...We do not really understand the stakes until it’s too late, which may be accurate for the characters but undermines the audience." Full Review

Time Out New York

"This crass, seriocomic script lumbers along for three palpable hours, alternately tedious and odious, expecting us to care about its petty, miserable, bed-hopping Russian characters without giving them witty or touching things to say. 'I’m so bored. Bored and disappointed,' moans Anna during her boozy, interminable birthday party. She speaks for all of us...Unless you cut 'Platonov' savagely to the bone or find a novel approach, it’s going to come across as callow, sub-Chekhov stuff." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"The play and production are more than worthy...Blanchett makes it instantly clear that she is a creature of the stage. She is in full control, even when she is seemingly sitting silently...Australian film and stage star Roxburgh is perfectly marvelous as the Lothario gone to seed. The others are all fine...Director John Crowley keeps the play moving rapidly through its almost three-hour running time. Your attention is unlikely to lag, not with Blanchett, Roxburgh and this group." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"Blanchett's virtuosic performance is truth and dare at once. The play itself is a more fitfully successful affair...The chemistry between Anna and combustible enough to blow up the play...When they’re not onstage together, the play has a tendency to slump, a condition that neither Crowley’s sensitive direction nor the excellence of the rest of the cast can ever entirely correct...When this production works best, it feels entirely of the moment and urgently, ripely alive." Full Review

Theater Life

"The double-Oscar-winning star is just one shining jewel in a mostly dazzling show full of farcical humor, heartbreaking pathos, and pointed political observation. Clocking in at three hours, the comedy-drama does have its slow points—the third of four long acts is especially lead-footed. Yet the intense and witty moments more than make up for the snooze-inducing snatches...Though it has its flaws, this 'Present' is a stunning evening of theater." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Upton's text is thoroughly Chekhovian in the way that heartbreak and farce occupy the same stage; the elegant turns of phrase are his own...John Crowley's direction has a laser-like accuracy for line readings and the bits of business that lay bare each character's agenda, frustrations, and fears, and he is aided by a cast from Sydney Theatre Company who play together superbly; this is currently the most stunning ensemble on a New York stage." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"It is difficult to be in thrall of the 13 actors...The characters are of unequal weight and interest, yet we are forced to sort them all out, which takes at least the first half of the play...There are those who are fans of the Oscar winner who will find her performance entertaining enough to obliterate any other concerns, or who have the patience and curiosity to appreciate the production’s complex texture and thought-provoking themes...Then there are the rest of us, who wish it were shorter." Full Review

Front Row Center

"A fairly unsatisfactory evening. I say this with caution because, in the case of Blanchett and Roxburgh, you want these scenes to simply never end. Watching them is a transfixing experience. The rest of the cast does not demonstrate the same skills of handling a text. This young Chekhov goes deep with his words and digs specifications out of the very souls of his characters...Had the other actors been up to the task, this would have been an altogether different event." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"This early (early) work of Chekhov is given a cheeky translation by Upton, tossing in a specific modern setting and a lot of verve...The cast — led by Blanchett in fine form — keys into Upton’s tone and jazzes it up...Director John Crowley keeps things moving apace...Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh have chemistry to burn...It amounts to very little when all is said and done...This is far inferior Chekhov presented with a sense of fun and when you expect so little, that’s quite a relief." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"A tart tragedy, infused with corrosive humor...What's most surprising about John Crowley's expertly calibrated production is how funny it is, while remaining true to themes of disillusionment, class breakdown and unfulfilled love...Weaving together these characters and their hollow lives in a context that connects them both to Chekhov's Russia and to our own world, Upton, Crowley and this accomplished company have elevated a problematic play into something unexpectedly satisfying." Full Review

AM New York

"Are you willing to endure three hours of boredom in exchange for some occasional moments of radiance from Cate Blanchett?...An ambitious but ultimately futile adaptation by Upton of Chekhov’s long-winded and muddled first play...As directed by Crowley with a spare visual design, 'The Present' is an uneven, uneventful and aimless mess. It gets off to a poor start with a long opening scene that leaves audience members confused regarding the various character relationships." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Despite sharp-edged direction from John Crowley, decent design, and strong acting all the way around, this is a dull void of an evening...Thank goodness for Blanchett...Her plight as rendered is mesmerizing and trenchant, a cry against outdated perceptions of who women are and what they're capable of, and that leaves you with plenty to unpack. Too bad the rest of 'The Present' is better left wrapped." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Blanchet and Roxburgh are electrifying, however neither Roxburgh nor the role of Platonov carry the burden of being a male sex symbol...What is worth seeing is Ms. Blanchett...She is utterly transfixing…'The Present' is a true ensemble piece and the cast does well bringing these characters to life. What I found tedious was the script and the direction by John Crowley. The first act seemed like three hours due to the unfocused script." Full Review


"It’s haltingly staged, one foot on the gas pedal, the other on the brake, by John Crowley. That attack may seem at cross purposes, but it’s effective in a diffuse work whose chief attribute is the way it presages the obsessions a barely-20-year-old writer will later refine…The very long set-up climaxes in a party scene that finds Blanchett dirty dancing through the drunken revels…That leaves a lot of messy stuff to tie up in the post-intermission acts, and they’re not as much fun." Full Review

New York Daily News

"Cate Blanchett’s captivating presence makes 'The Present' a worthwhile three-hour sit. The same goes for her equally commanding co-star Richard Roxburgh in this play inspired by an unwieldy early Anton Chekhov work. That said, without the two mighty bright stars, it’d be a slow-starting, fitfully amusing and longwinded evening...Blanchett is fiery and funny and in her element on stage...More than once Anna wails that she’s bored. When Blanchett’s around, you won’t be." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Quite the wild ride at certain points. But like any Chekhovian play, it’s also about boredom and frustration in that boredom...This overly long 3-hour play has a tremendous amount of endless chatter...interspersed by a number of startling bangs to wake us up...Usually it comes with a deeper and greater pay-off: the bang here is big but not deep...The two leads are like the host and hostess who hold it all together. Without them, this birthday would be a bore and a mess." Full Review


"What we have is a big star vehicle which happens to be made more starry courtesy of a stellar ensemble. Blanchett and Roxburgh are electrifying...To add to the pleasures of 'The Present,' Upton and Director Crowley have brought out Chekhov's intention to have his plays viewed as farces by playing up the humorous aspects of these characters' behavior...A well-paced three hours to be savored for the fine performances and interesting hints of themes to come." Full Review


"Upton's 'The Present' is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it brings the team of Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh to New York for their Broadway debuts, and reintroduces theatergoers to a fairly unknown play by Anton Chekhov. On the other hand, the updating, which is intended to make the play more accessible, creates its own problems and much of the long evening is heavy going. However, Blanchett and Roxburgh make their own fireworks and each act ends with high drama." Full Review

The Wrap

"Cate Blanchett is the attraction. Richard Roxburgh is the revelation...It’s a talented ensemble under John Crowley’s direction, and they make some of the awkward shifts in the plot grind a little less noisily...It’s also obvious why Upton, Frayn, and Hare took up the challenge of the play. Mikhail Platonov is the Blanche du Bois of roles for men...The flaws of this great, sprawling, messy play are not entirely obliterated by the stellar performances and direction." Full Review


"A rather sprawling and sometimes unfocused three-hour piece that teeters between melodrama and farce, 'The Present' ends up as neither first-rate Chekhov, nor I suspect even first-rate Upton. But it contains plenty of touching and hilarious moments, numerous deep-seated truths about human relationships, and some award-worthy acting...John Crowley’s assured direction allows even those actors with brief stage time to make a strong impression." Full Review


"It would be possible—and extremely pleasurable—to spend most of the three hours at 'The Present' just watching Cate Blanchett...As mesmerizing as she is, however, it would be a serious mistake to consider 'The Present' a star vehicle...This is dazzling ensemble theater, partnering Blanchett with the sly and thrilling Richard Roxburgh...There isn’t a whiff of gimmickry in director John Crowley’s leisurely, bawdy, poignant production." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"The piece still needs editing, but its core is whizz-bang theater and acting is a treat...Except for the surplus of Acts I and III, both of which could be successfully cut, Andrew Upton’s literate interpretation is intriguing and often crackling...In her Broadway debut, Cate Blanchett is a joy to watch, though the dragging first act could make anyone appear aimless...The rest of the company is excellent...Most of director John Crowley’s work is appealingly naturalistic." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You like Chekhov and want to see how his weak first play was rescued. The writing, acting, and directing were brilliant.

Don't see it if You are put off by Chekhov. This version is superb, but you still need to appreciated the intellectual drama of the playwright.

Ambitious, Edgy, Indulgent, Disappointing, Overrated

See it if You like Kate Blanchett. She does a really good job in this show. Roxburgh, not so much.

Don't see it if Show is slow at times, confusing at times. I was disappointed , thought it would be directed better.

Ambitious, Great acting, Confusing

See it if you are eager to see Cate Blanchett on stage/you have a big old boner for Chekhov

Don't see it if sitting for three+ hours isn't your cup of tea/you need a straightforward plot

Dizzying, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if you like Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh, you want to see a modern take on Chekhov.

Don't see it if you would be confused by a Russian story with Australian accents, you need a straightforward plot, you have to be home by bedtime.

Funny, Dizzying

See it if a modern interpretation of a Chekhov play (starring Cate Blanchett!!!) you haven't seen before sounds interesting.

Don't see it if you're not into Chekhov. There's still a whole lotta talking about nothing happening here, guys.

Funny, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if Cate Blanchett is incredible. The play itself is great.

Don't see it if You're not particularly fond of Chekhov

Banal, Disappointing, Cliched, Dated

See it if you want to see Cate Blanchett for the star factor alone

Don't see it if you can't handle Australian accents doing Chekhov, really banal and disappointing acting

Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Insipid, Slow

See it if You wanna see Cate Blanchett in a very interesting role. Also if you like Chekhov and his complicated plots and stories

Don't see it if You have something better to see, which is half of what's on Broadway (or Off-Broadway). Nothing much to miss here

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting

See it if I was surprised by this one- I laughed, reflected & noted the interesting themes/writing. Cate is a force. the 2nd act was odd tho.

Don't see it if It's quite long - confusing at times. The second act didn't flow for me.

Indulgent, Banal, Insipid

See it if Cate Blanchett.

Don't see it if Languished. Overwrought.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Great writing

See it if you enjoy the meandering slow burn of Chekhov sprinkled with Australian humour and acting talents.

Don't see it if you can't abide slow-starting plays and lots of rambling dialogue.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if you enjoy Chekhov and at minimum don't mind having to analyse and reflect on the show to fully understand the play, you like intense drama.

Don't see it if you need the shows to be constantly moving or evenly paced. The 1st act is slow with little plot development, and the other acts are uneven.

Funny, Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you like Cate Blanchett, curious about an early rarely done Chekhov, enjoy good ensemble work & Chekhov in a modern setting

Don't see it if updated Chekhov aggravates you, scattered work by a novice before he becames accomplished does not impress you, Blanchett not a big draw

Exquisite, Great acting, Masterful, Must see, Entertaining

See it if you love great theatre. Cate Blanchett is a dream. The entire cast is a gift. Great acting and an engaging adaptation.

Don't see it if you dislike Chekhov, family dramas, long character driven plays.

Indulgent, Banal, Disappointing, Slow

See it if you absolutely must see Cate Blanchette on stage. Other than that, it's missable.

Don't see it if you are smart! This adaptation is slow and tedious.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting

See it if you thought you didn't like Chekhov, but just haven't seen a quality adaptation by stellar troupe helmed by Blanchett & Roxburgh. Great!

Don't see it if you get impatient with a slow build.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Confusing

See it if you want to see a very great actress, Cate Blanchett and a good actor Richard Roxburgh.

Don't see it if If you want a play where everything is believable.

Great acting, Intelligent, Slow

See it if You like Russian drama. You like complicated plots.

Don't see it if You don't like large complicated casts. There are a lot random characters with random Russian names.

Great acting, Banal, Confusing, Overrated, Slow

See it if You are a Cate Blanchett fan. You like Chekov.

Don't see it if Way way too long. it was very talky.Boring. Even Cate's character say "I am bored. I am very bored". You want to see you can relate to.

Also Cate Blanchett was the best part of this show. when she was the center... Read more Read less

Great acting, Quirky, Unusual, Surprising, Sexy

See it if you like seeing something that challenges your mind a bit, an little known production from a classic author in an updated unusual manner.

Don't see it if you object to talky, somewhat irrelevant dialogue although presented in an unconventional manner

Also That woman sure knows how to throw a party. ... Read more Read less

Great writing, Disappointing, Dated, Over directed, Terrific adaptation

See it if you love Chekhov.Acting is all over the top, so that means that the director wanted all the hysteria and no subtlety. Set & costumes are ok.

Don't see it if you want to see Chekov done with restraint. Second act fog scene is ridiculous. Too much hysteria throughout the show.

Great acting, Intense, Slow, Sexy, Explosive

See it if you enjoy complicated, ensemble dramas, with intertwined relationships. Blanchett & Roxburgh both give excellent performances.

Don't see it if you can't get into complicated stories. The play started slow, but sped up toward the end of the first act & culminated in a dramatic end.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you want to see a group of expert actors in a well-constructed play of historical theatrical significance.

Don't see it if You don't like nearly 3 hour long talky plays that may not have a message that will resonate with you or transport you.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Riveting

See it if Well Kate and Checkoff make a perfectly fabulous evening of banter and midlife crisis. The cast is sublime and worth ever moment.

Don't see it if If you don't like Checkoff

Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Slow, Must see celebrity

See it if you are a fan of Cate Blanchett and you will be amazed by her strong abilities to bring out a big range of emotion.

Don't see it if you don't like long dialogue kind of play. And be warned that there is multiply strong use of gun effect in the show.

Cast & Creatives (20)