Saturday, March 4, 2017
Cate Blanchett's guy updates Chekhov's 1st play (1878)
Cate Blanchett's husband, Andrew Upton, adopted Chekhov's first play, Platonov (1878) under the title The Present. "London Calling" and "Death or Glory" by the Clash and "What is Love" by Haddaway place this milieu mid-80s. All actors in this production were Australian under the Sydney Theatre Co. and performed at the Barrymore Theater. Blanchett made her Broadway debut in this play directed by John Crowley.
Platonov, the name in English given to an early, untitled play in four acts written by Anton Chekhov in 1878. It was the first large-scale drama by Chekhov, written specifically for Maria Yermolova, rising star of Maly Theatr Yermolova rejected the play and it was not published until 1923. The lead character is Mikhail Platonov, a disillusioned provincial schoolmaster. The play is set in a dilapidated country house in the Russian provinces. Landowner Anna Petrovna, Sofia Yegorovna, wife of Anna Petrovna's stepson, and one of his colleagues fall in love with the married Platonov. He thinks society is without ideas and principles, but is aware that he himself is very much part of that society. He is compared to Hamlet and Don Juan, and likes to think of himself as a witty and intellectually stimulating entertainer. In the end, he recognizes his hopeless position between the four women and retreats into alcohol. Finally, Sofia understands that she cannot hope for a new life with Platonov and shoots him.
It may seem an unexpected choice for a Chekhov play from pre-revolutionary Russia, but for The Present, which is set in the post-perestroika world of the Russian oligarchs, Upton and Crowley have threaded the production with evocative music from the world of punk rock. “Andrew’s first draft referred to a couple of lyrics from a Garage track and a Joy Division track, so we looked at what the musical scene would have been when the characters were young, when Platonov would have been going to university,” Crowley explains. The playwright and director then settled on the music of The Clash, the English punk-rock band of the mid 1970s, to underscore the production.