Cate Blanchett’s Debut on Broadway

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Meryl Streep made screaming headlines and instigated wild social media engagement due to her bold acceptance speech at last weekend’s Golden Globe Awards. The story received further traction when President Elect Trump called her an over-rated actress. The overwhelming reaction to that tweet was, say what you want about politics, Mr. Trump, but don’t touch our national acting treasure, Ms. Streep.

I am sure the Aussies feel the same way about Cate Blanchett. She is just as astounding.

The actress, known for her numerous film and stage roles, is making her Broadway debut in the new adaptation of The Present. Based on Anton Chekhov’s Platonov, the piece is written by Andrew Upton, Ms. Blanchett’s husband.

Mama Mia. First of all, Blanchett’s stage presence is glorious, and her voice, deep, strong and honey-like, is simply delicious.

Cate stars opposite  Richard Roxburgh, who is equally as terrific.

It is a true  delight to see two seasoned pros working together to bring the text to life.

Perhaps for that reason you might venture out to see The Present. For the play, not so much.

I mean, look, I am always intrigued by Chekhov, with his dry philosophy on life and take on relationships, but this often hard to follow three hour play  is just more than we should have to endure.


Photo credit: Joan Marcus

The Present was originally an untitled early play by a young Anton Chekhov that made its way to Mr. Upton’s attention. It was a very long piece in the original form, and it remains so in the modern form currently offered on Broadway. The play was actually not even discovered until 16 years after Chekhov’s death. This adaptation is set in the mid 1990’s and takes place at a country house, where friends gather to celebrate the 40th birthday of Anna Petrovna (Ms. Blanchett). The witty and sarcastic Mikhail Platonov (Roxburgh) is there with his wife and friends and students.  But, what is underneath the relationship between Anna and Mikhail? There is a heat that is palpable for sure.

During the course of the play, the characters drink lots of vodka. There is flirting, dancing, destruction, desire, and the overwhelming feeling of just plain boredom. Oh yes, and a readily available gun. Never a good combination when consuming copious amounts of vodka.  That’s Chekhov for you.

Although Blanchett and Roxburgh are truly expert at their craft and wonderful to see, the show is tedious, and closing one’s eyes may be a decent choice now and again. At intermission, an entire row of people next to me and several in the row in front did not return.

Take that information as you will. Except for a few brilliant Chekhovian lines, and the aforementioned stunning performances of the show’s stars, The Present, directed by John Crowley,  is one that might best be kept under wraps.



  • Valerie Smaldone

    Five-time Billboard Award-winning media personality Valerie Smaldone is a theatre, food, lifestyle and entertainment enthusiast. She is a celebrity interviewer, accomplished voice-over artist and actress. Recent appearances on episodic tv include Law and Order, Criminal Intent, The Other Two (on HBO Max), Tommy, Manifest and Blue Bloods. She is an audiobook narrator and producer. A live event emcee, moderator, and "Voice of God" at events and award ceremonies, Valerie has just directed and produced her first film featuring Gloria Gaynor and is producing a docu-series starring Erik Estrada. Visit her website at

1 Response

  1. Ellen Schultz says:

    Thank you for this review. I love Richard Roxburgh after seeing him in the Australian series, ‘Rake’ and others. He’s amazing, as is she, but this play has been getting some negative reviews.

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