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NY Times pans Blanchett's Broadway debut

AAP logoAAP 9/01/2017 By Peter Mitchell, AAP US Correspondent

Cate Blanchett and husband Andrew Upton have split Broadway's critics, with the New York Times panning their play The Present as a moribund "fitful Australian import" while other publications disagreed and raved it was "sparkling", "invigorating" and "dazzling ensemble theatre".

The Present opened at Manhattan's iconic Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Sunday - marking Blanchett's long-awaited Broadway debut and another important international foray for the Sydney Theatre Company.

Cate Blanchett © Provided by AAP Cate Blanchett

The New York Times' Ben Brantley told readers last year "I am licking my chops" in anticipation of the production, but playwright Upton's update of Anton Chekhov's Platonov apparently left the influential critic with a bad taste in his mouth.

"This production, on the other hand, feels moribund from the beginning," Brantley wrote.

"Frantic attempts at resuscitation by Ms Blanchett and her valiant leading man (and unforgettable co-star in Uncle Vanya), a tireless Richard Roxburgh as a hapless homme fatale, only occasionally succeed in eliciting a pulse."

Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty slammed it as "unfocused and overly busy" with too many moving parts that "never quite finds the right balance between melodrama and farce".

"It's the definition of an ambitious mixed bag," Nashawaty wrote.

The most poisonous review came from Time Out's David Cote.

"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," Cote wrote.

Critics from Variety, Newsday, the Hollywood Reporter and the UK's Telegraph newspaper, however, were full of praise for Blanchett, Upton, Roxburgh and the rest of the Australian cast.

"The spirit of Chekhovian farce shines bright, and the ensemble work of this Aussie company is just grand," Variety's Marilyn Stasio trumpeted.

The Telegraph described the play as an "intense, invigorating three-hour show" and the Hollywood Reporter wrote director John Crowley "and this accomplished company have elevated a problematic play into something unexpectedly satisfying".

"This is dazzling ensemble theatre, partnering Blanchett with the sly and thrilling Richard Roxburgh," Newsday's Linda Winer wrote.

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