Cate Blanchett’s “The Present” Earns Mixed Reviews

Adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “Platonov” Starring Cate Blanchett

the presentThis past week, The Present had its official opening night at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, following 22 previews which began on December 17, 2016.  Highly hyped due to the Broadway debut of its lead actress, Cate Blanchett, The Present has been performing quite well at the box office, even before the reviews came out.  The play was written by Andrew Upton, who happens to be Cate Blanchett’s husband, as an adaptation of the great Russian writer Anton Chekhov’s first, rarely performed play, Platonov.  This play was first penned in 1878, but because Chekhov’s star actress Maria Yermolova rejected the work upon first writing, the play was dismissed in its time, and was only published in 1923, following Chekhov’s death in 1904 at the age of 44.  In the meantime, Chekhov wrote several great masterpieces, which have been translated and performed all over the world, and today are celebrated as some of the greatest theatrical works of all time, including Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard.  In this way, Chekhov became known as one of the seminal figures in the early modernism in theatre, along with August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen.  Therefore, it is natural that interest has built over time in Chekhov’s first work, and Platonov has been adapted into several works for the stage and screen over the years.  This latest, The Present, premiered at the Sydney Theatre Company in 2015, prior to transferring to Broadway.

Despite High Anticipation, Mixed Reviews for “The Present”

Upon the show’s opening night, the critical response was mixed for The Present.  Ben Brantley of The New York Times remarked the show only got really good once all the characters were good and drunk, and then the awkward conversations evolve into runaway hedonism, which somewhat justified the choice to attend this play.  Chris Nashawaty from Entertainment Weekly was also on the fence, admitting Chekhov’s forgotten first play is impressive, but that it does not compare to his masterpieces.  David Cote from Time Out New York was less generous, calling Platonov a dramaturgical trainwreck, and remarking that Andrew Upton’s attempt to salvage the would-be five-hour work from the safe deposit box in which it was found after Chekhov’s death was only as successful as the source material could allow.  Matt Windman from AM New York was also unenthusiastic about the production, calling it an uneven and aimless mess, but admitting that Cate Blanchett and her co-star Richard Roxburgh’s performances were layered and well-executed.  However, Marilyn Stasio of Variety did truly enjoy the show, calling the production “sparkling,” and remarking that Upton’s adaptation thrives in its free-form nature.

Box Office Remains Strong for the Production

Despite this mixed critical response, the star power of The Present is strong.  With beautiful marketing design featuring portraits of the cast in tired glamor, audiences have been flocking to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.  In the week ending January 8, 2017, The Present brought in $929,215 over eight performances, which represents 86.50% of its gross potential.  The previous three weeks, which happened to coincide with the holidays, were even better.  In the week ending January 1, 2017, the show brought in $969,495 over seven performances, representing 103.14% of its gross potential.  That week, with a top ticket price of $272.00, the average paid admission was $131.60, and the audience was filled up to 99.9% of its capacity on average.  Therefore, audiences are excited indeed by the prospect of seeing the great Cate Blanchett on stage in the flesh, following her superb performances in such films as Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth, and Todd Haynes’ films I’m Not There and Carol.  The production is scheduled to run until March 19, 2017.

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With over 20 years experience in the Broadway field, including show marketing, production, development and investment, Jennifer R Jones is an all-around subject-matter-expert in the Broadway business. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and her iMac and tries to see at least five Broadway shows per week and when time will allow, will sneak in a daytime TV production for fun.
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