Monthly Archives: July 2012

It’s All Too Much! Hugo News Overload! Part One: Uncle Vanya

Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.

Note: There’s a sudden onslaught of breaking Hugo Weaving News this week on at least three major fronts: STC’s Uncle Vanya continues its heralded run at Lincoln Center’s City Center Theater (with new rave reviews coming out each day), Peter Jackson has released the 8th Hobbit Production Video and is making noise about turning the project into three films… and Cloud Atlas is scheduled to have its world premiere at this year’s Toronto Film Festival in September, as two new production stills– the first official pics from the film, were released on Entertainment Weekly’s website, and more are promised soon. So I’m at a loss over where I should start! Multiple entries will be required. Uncle Vanya first, the rest later, though that stuff might be posted first. Confused yet? Me too. It’s been a crazy, wonderful week.

Just got back from seeing Sydney Theatre Company’s Uncle Vanya for the fourth time last night, and I’m trying to cobble thoughts together for a “proper” review. Somehow even four viewings of this magnificent, beautifully sad, transcendent production aren’t enough… it has a fluidity and subtle changes with each performance. Of course the major constants remain– the play is in essence a tragicomedy about thwarted lives, unrequited love and the existential crises that various characters find themselves trapped in at various life stages (the onset of adulthood for Sonya, old age for Marina, Vanya’s mother and Serebryakov, and midlife for everyone else.) There’s always a delicate balance between laughter and tears that the cast are fearless about completely tipping one way or the other– not necessarily the same way each night.

My overall impression this time was that the “larger moments” are less grandiose this time around (and the physical mechanics more shambolic and less precise by design) while the smaller moments, pauses and quiet conversations have become more essential. These actors keep looking for and finding new facets or possibilites to explore without changing their characters’ essential natures or destinies. I’m also intrigued at how different critics have interpreted key moments and lines of dialogue in completely different ways, ways which jibe with or counter my own reactions. I wonder if this is because they’ve seen a different performance, or because the nuance of each performance is so open to interpretation. Probably the latter. And I know this is grossly unfair to those who’ve only been able to go once, or who aren’t able to go at all. So, in all modesty, I’ll echo Professor Serebryakov’s words near the end, and implore the STC to DO SOMETHING. Like film this.  😉

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about the play over time… if you want my initial impression after first seeing the play (rather than ponderings over how it changes over time) here’s what I dashed out after the first Kennedy Center performance. Alas, no great Stage Door stories this time… Hugo elected to exit via a different door and not do signings this time. (Jacki Weaver, Hayley McElhinney, Sandy Gore and Anthony Phelan did exit via the stage door and sign for fans on Tuesday, and were kind and convivial despite being obviously tired… people were still waiting for Cate Blachett when I had to go.) I know all of the actors have done some signing, but such events are a gift, and can never be anticipated or expected. I knew I was never going to top the experience I had after the August 16 KenCen performance last year anyhow. That’s like expecting lightning to strike in the same place twice. 😉

But one lucky fan named Rick did snap a “portroid” and get an autograph recently:

Some less-than-academic, sometimes probably-inappropriate impressions of last night’s performance: My seat was directly in front of the coffee table to stage left (house right); the play opens with Astrov sitting on the table with his back to the audience as he lackadaisically swats flies and chats with Marina (Jacki Weaver). Every time Hugo leaned forward I found it impossible to pay attention to the dialogue, making it fortunate I’d seen the play before. Also, during the second scene, when Astrov erupts drunkenly out of the side door to try to engage the self-pitying Vanya with drinking and dance, his shirt was open further than in the official performance stills and trailer (and prior performances I’d seen)  and his appearance more completely  disheveled, making his embarrassed apology “No tie!” when Sonya appears on the scene all the more hilarious. Finally, the final kiss between Yelea and Astrov which has provoked so much discussion was less acrobatic and climactic this time, but more sloppily naturalistic. Since earlier clenches between these characters have become more explicitly erotic, the final one seems to have been deliberately made anticlimactic. An interesting choice.

I often feel a need to defer to more professional (or at least objective) critics in analysis of Hugo’s character because it’s a bit too obvious I find Hugo attractive regardless of the circumstances. I’m always torn between finding the fangirl thing fun and worrying it’s inapprorpriate… I do think it’s fair to say Astrov is meant to be attractive (if “strange”, alcoholic and caustic) in the context of the play, given the powerful urges he inspires in Sonya and Yelena. In general the play tells us that often the most overwhelming romantic urges are often inappropriate and unrequited. This is true in life as well. 😉 Fortunately, unlike the characters in the play, I have found that “light in the forest” Astrov laments he’ll never find, ie a mutual loving relationship. (That’d be my boyfriend John, who took all those lovely KenCen photos last summer.) This helps put the fangirl thing in its place. Also, if my interest in Hugo was purely hormonal, it would have long fallen by the wayside. Still, there’s always an element of the hormonal in there somewhere. I always feel like I should apologize to Hugo on some karmic level about that. 😉  Others I’ve seen the play with have told me they related to Vanya’s existential crisis, his dawning sense that he was never going to live the sort of life he aspired toward. When I was younger, I found the play depressing and fatalistic, but now I’m at the age where I understand how true a lot of it is, how timeless, and I find a strange sense of comfort in that. The play forces one to think about all these messy emotional issues…. Probably any further pondering on that theme should go in the personal LJ. 😉

Onward to the latest Review Roundup, then!

But first another photo, of some of the Vanya cast with entertainment reporter Nelson Aspen:

L to R: Jacki Weaver, Hugo Weaving, , Richard Roxburgh, Cate Blanchett & Nelson Aspen Photo Source: Sunrise on 7 Tumblr

Aspen is promising his cast interviews will air (and, hopefully, be posted online) this weekend, as Vanya’s New York run comes to a close. Now to those review excerpts:

Adam Green, Vogue: “Sydney Theatre Company’s Vanya, which opened on Saturday night at New York City Center, with a cast of top-notch Aussies led by the magnificent Cate Blanchett. In life, as in Chekhov, laughter and tears are separated by the thinnest of lines…[Blanchett deploys] an astonishing performance that is part Grace Kelly, part Charlie Chaplin, and guaranteed to break your heart. Interpretations of Chekhov tend to be lopsided, either shrouding the comedy in a heavy veil of despair or whistling past the tragedy in a boffo dash for yuks. But this Vanya, adapted by Blanchett’s husband (and co-artistic director of the STC) Andrew Upton, and staged with acrobatic élan by the Hungarian director Tamás Ascher, gets it just right, proving that the playwright wasn’t kidding when he described his work as farce. Sure, this snapshot of spiritual ennui, thwarted love, and squandered lives in the Russian provinces is a downer. But as performed by Blanchett and Co. it is also raucously, painfully funny. Lassitude has never been this exhilarating…. Here, there is no such thing as grace, either physical or spiritual, and when these characters fall in love, they literally fall—over themselves and into each other, not to mention any piece of furniture that might get in the way. One minute, Weaving’s Astrov is ruefully saying, ‘In principle I love life, but this particular one?’; the next, under the spell of Blanchett’s Yelena, he’s tumbling out the window….Watch her, in her final scene, as she says goodbye to Weaving’s Astrov, with whom she has fallen in love, hurl herself at him like a feral cat and wrap her legs around his waist, kissing him hungrily, only to fling herself away and tumble across the floor as if propelled by an electric shock. It’s a bravura moment of low comedy. But take a look at the unbearable sadness that briefly crosses her face as she composes herself, and the laughter catches in your throat. If you’ve ever wondered what people mean when they call something ‘Chekhovian,’this is it.”

Scott Brown, Stage Dive/Vulture.Com: “”Renowned Chekhovist Tamás Ascher directs Cate Blanchett and a company of A-list Aussies from the Sydney Theatre Company in a grand new production at the Lincoln Center Festival. Richard Roxburgh, in full Prufrockian seethe, is our Vanya, a pouty clown with India-rubber reflexes, totally doomed yet damned bouncy about it. (If you’re looking for the polar opposite of Reed Birney’s tragic-sweater grumpy-gus at Soho Rep, this performance is likely it.) Hugo Weaving strikes minimalist-comedy gold as the Saturnine Dr. Astrov, and Blanchett is their mutual obsession, bored, beautiful, and badly married Yelena. (Serpentine in a series of stunning dresses, Blanchett purposefully wrong-foots her regal, ravishing poise again and again — she’s a genuinely gifted physical comedienne, and her key tipsy scene with Hayley McElhinney’s open-hearted Sonya is a comic mini-ballet.)… I, for one, found the whole thing bracing, as if someone had thrown open a window and let out the miasma of arthritic Chekhovs past, the productions you accrue over the years from bad college productions and RSI (repertory stress injury).”

Sarah Montague, WNYC Culture: “There are many definitions of comedy, and one is when circumstances are ripe for tragedy, but it fails to materialize. Uncle Vanya, Anton Chekhov’s tale of disappointed love and disappointed lives on a declining country estate, is a comedy….Each main character, in turn, expresses his/her anguish and frustration. Each regrets a wasted past and glimpses a fulfilling future just out of reach. Ascher’s instinct is to subvert the potential bathos of these utterances with a robust sense of the ridiculous—speeches are made from astride the furniture; people tumble through doors and out of windows; Vanya tries to cudgel his brother-in-law with a wilted bouquet of flowers. Sometimes, however, the manic pace carries us past the heart-rending equilibrium of hopelessness that is the essential core of this work….It is a tribute to the bright Sydney cast that they manage to honor both Ascher’s interpretation (of a lively adaptation by Andrew Upton) and something elusive beyond the constraints of the production…Hugo Weaving’s Astrov has the uneven charm of a visionary (or “crank”) for whom the world is not quite ready. (Indeed, he is uncannily prescient—his speeches on the systematic depredation of the landscape could have been penned by the Environmental Defense Fund). He throws his languid, tapering body in and out of the furniture, at peace, ironically, only when he is drawing topographical maps that show the erosion of the countryside. He maintains that he is unable to love, and even his passion for Yelena feels like an attitude he is trying on….My first Uncle Vanya was Michael Redgrave, in the legendary 1963 production. I remember him as stifled. In contrast, Richard Roxburgh has unbottled everything that Redgrave suppressed. He seems literally unable to contain himself, with roving hands that tug at his scalp as if hoping to let the demons out. He knows he is foolish, and splenetic, and yet the note of longing as he describes the life he’s missed out on pulls you into an undertow of sympathy and dread…In the closing scene, Vanya is finally still—an automaton taking up again the household accounts. ‘We must live,’ says Sonya, to whom Chekhov has turned over the play. It is not a consoling end—live, labor, and only then ‘rest.’ But it has dignity, and grace, and cannot be laughed at.”

Roma Torre, NY1: “Boredom is mentioned so many times in ‘Uncle Vanya’, you might think that’s all that the play is about. And in fact, that’s the trap many productions fall into – turning Chekhov classics into long-winded studies of lethargy in the Russian hinterlands. But in the Sydney Theatre Company’s scintillating version, it is anything but boring…Starring the great Cate Blanchett in a performance that brings to mind Meryl Streep, this ‘Vanya’ is an impassioned joyride from start to finish. The adaptation by Blanchett’s husband and co-artistic director Andrew Upton is all about the very human yearning to find meaning and love amid life’s mundane realities…Unrequited love infects just about all of the characters in this unhappy household and the actors play their parts to the hilt…Frustrated and depressed, they each get to erupt magnificently. And with a whimsical soundtrack, it all makes for thrilling theater. The element that makes a classic is timelessness but given this production’s resonant appeal, it goes even further. Rarely has an Anton Chekhov play felt so much of our time.”

Robert Feldberg, North Jersey: “The presentation, part of the Lincoln Center Festival, flirts with farce, but never crosses the line. The characters’ swoops and lunges, their pratfalls, the moments when they pull the covers over their heads, suggest discomfort as the great human comedy…Played by Richard Roxburgh with a combination of passion, bitterness and goofiness, Vanya is an oddly touching figure, even as he keeps moaning about how life has passed him by…Astrov, the alcoholic, motorcycle-riding local doctor, [is] portrayed with a certain dash by Hugo Weaving. Sonya[‘s] deep but hopeless feeling is rendered with an affecting mix of girlishness and dignity by Hayley McElhinney… Although Blanchett is the production’s big name, this is truly an ensemble piece, with everyone blending in a single universe and the evening’s impact coming both from individual performances and the characters’ interactions.”

 

Frank Scheck, Scheck On Theater: “The Sydney Theatre Company’s new Uncle Vanya being presented by the Lincoln Center Festival is a triumphant rendition that thankfully highlights the humor of the classic play while not neglecting its pathos. In the hands of this talented company headed by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett as Yelena, ennui and bitter disappointment have never been so entertaining…The characters may be as bored, lovestruck and dissatisfied with their lives as ever, but here the play–which in lesser hands can seem depressingly lugubrious–has taken on vibrant life…The evening is anchored by the galvanizing presence of the luminous, long-limbed Blanchett, whose Yelena displays a devastating eroticism that is only accentuated by her tense awkwardness…Weaving, familiar to American audiences through his memorable appearances in such films as The Matrix and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is a particularly dashing Astrov, making his appeal to both Yelena and the forlorn Sonya more than credible…Among the superb ensemble, standouts include McElhinney’s sensitive but steel-willed Sonya and a virtually unrecognizable Jacki Weaver (Oscar nominated for Animal Kingdom) as the elderly nanny, Marina.”

John Keith, The JK Review: “The performances are, of course, what truly make this show fantastic. Blanchett naturally commands the audience’s attention—as well as the attention of her leading men—through her effortlessly comedic blocking and dramatically-delivered dialogue. Although Yelena is tempted by the doctor, she plays the good wife and refuses to give in to infidelity. Vanya, conversely, yearns to be with Yelena. Roxburgh captures the character’s desire for her along with his general desire to do something with his life (this country estate has the uncanny ability to stagnate people’s lives)….Weaving’s alcoholic Astrov and McElhinny’s naïve Sonya give such superb performances that you forget the story is named after her Uncle Vanya. Sandy Gore’s Maria and Jacki Weaver’s Marina easily elicit laughs from the audience in their smaller roles, as well. All of the cast give solid and engaging performances that you almost forget these Russian people have Australian accents….The entirety of this production is superb (even the set designed by Zsolt Khell is outstanding). Come explore Chekhov’s themes of unhappiness and frustration of the wasted life (Yelena even declares, ‘You only live once!’; and you will leave the show wanting to go out and do something.”

There are four days and five performances left in Uncle Vanya’s New York run. I hope many of you are able to to get tickets. I’m trying to go again myself. Yes, I’m quite addicted. A family member who didn’t quite get why I had to see this particular production so many times asked “Why?” I started by avoiding the obvious, “Duh! Hugo Weaving! Cate Blanchett! Richard Roxburgh! etc!”– I should note that Richard Roxburgh and Hayley McElhinney do most of the emotional heavy lifting in the play. Hugo and Cate dazzle and intrigue, and offer the same sort of overpowering distractions within the context of the story that they do in many of our lives. But the play is about Vanya and Sonya, and how they try to carry on after these distractions. Instead, my response was: “Well, how many times have you seen your favorite movie? I bet it’s more than five times. Now imagine you were actually watching the actors perform it in front of you, and it was a little different each time you saw it.”

Cate Blanchett has talked in the past about how theatre is a living organism to her, how it can be ephemeral and evolving. Hugo has said he finds Chekhov “elusive” and “unpredictable” , “…discovering things and then losing some moments, then you can’t worry about that, and then sometimes they float back.” (from his Elissa Blake interview earlier this year.) I’ve teared up and laughed every time I’ve gone, but never quite at the same moments each time. Yes, the ending is always powerful, but sometimes the overriding impression is one of despair and resignation, other times of acceptance, even hope. I know if the production is filmed, that elusive, chimerical quality will be lost, so i’m grabbing the theatrical experience while I can. (They should still film it, though!) 😉 Film, of course, has its own joys and mysteries to offer. Which should segue neatly into the next Hugonuts post about Cloud Atlas and The Hobbit (maybe a little on Mystery Road, too…)

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Uncle Vanya Review Roundup, More Hugo Weaving Photos

Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.

Reviews for Uncle Vanya at Lincoln Center keep arriving, and all are wildly enthusiastic.  I’ll be heading into New York for tomorrow night’s performance and am trying to get tickets for later in the week… who knows when we’ll have another opportunity like this? People who can attend Sydney Theatre Company regular season in Sydney are lucky beyond belief. Cate Blanchett has already hinted in several interviews that she’s eager to return to the New York stage under the right circumstances. It’s unknown if the STC will tour Hugo’s recent production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses or next year’s Waiting for Godot (which isn’t officially confirmed for Sydney yet… patience, patience!) 😉 But the reception of Vanya can only bode well for further international outreach from this dynamic theater company.

There are a few new photos from July 21st’s Opening Night Reception, which I’ll add between review excerpts; as always, click on the links for the full text.


Hugo Weaving at the opening night party for ‘Uncle Vanya’ at the New York City Center, July 21, 2012 Photo: Contact Music (no photographer credit given)

Elisabeth Vincentelli The New York Post: “It’s not often that a Chekhov play is almost drowned by laughter….Yet that’s exactly what happens at the Sydney Theatre Company’s “Uncle Vanya,” which just opened at City Center as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. Director Tamás Ascher and his pitch-perfect cast, led by Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, understand that characters who are so miserable, so uncomfortable with themselves, are as comical as they are touching….Ascher underlines the darkly humorous side of this stereotypically Russian existential distress. At times, it feels downright sacrilegious, especially in the free-flowing adaptation by Andrew Upton (Blanchett’s husband): How dare they make fun of all this serious stuff!
But the show cleverly has it both ways. It has obvious affection for the characters while showing they’re stuck in a rut.”

Mildly Bitter’s Musings: “From witty direction, to a comedic and revelatory adaptation, to stunning and heart-breaking performances by Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving, and Hayley McElhinney, this Australian offering, which is part of the Lincoln Center Festival, brings a bounty of theatrical treats to the New York stage…By the end of the play I just wanted to lay down at the altar of Richard Roxburgh and be slayed because frankly I’ll never see anything as good as that again. At all times, he appeared to be teetering on a tiny ledge between laughter and tears…Weaving… was great as the object of Yelena’s affections. [T]he wooing scene between Astrov and Yelena with all of Blanchett’s frenetic energy was steamy even without touching. Weaving managed to exude sexual prowess even if the topic of the conversation was trees. Never has deforestation been so erotic… Hungarian director Tamás Ascher stages the play with incredible wit… his production constantly takes moments of lightness and juxtaposes them against moments of real devastation. The tragedy becomes richer because it is played for laughs. Nothing in these characters lives is remotely funny but with the sardonic edge in Upton’s adaptation, the smart direction and the consummate professionals interpreting these characters the dark comedy is perfectly delivered. The director and writer have trusted the audience will understand the tragedy without having to “play” it for tragedy. It’s a refreshing approach even if you’ll be sobbing by the end. Good tears, well-earned.”

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Hugo Weaving at July 21 Uncle Vanya Opening Night Party from Rex Features Photos: Carolyn Contino

Jee Leong Koh, Song of a Reformed Headhunter: “The cast was uniformly strong. John Bell played Serebryakov, Cate Blanchett Yelena, Hayley McElhinney Sonya, Richard Roxburgh Vanya, Hugo Weaving Astrov. There were no obvious ‘stars.’ All was bent to the service of the play. If Blanchett looked physically the part of the beautiful young wife, she was also emotionally convincing as a woman who was bored with serving a petulant and hypochondriac husband and so was tempted by adultery. Uncle Vanya, voluble in his self-pity, could be highly irritating, but Roxburgh gave him a winning vulnerability. When he walked in on Yelena and Astrov kissing, his pain was palpable as the bunch of roses that he held.”

Andy Propst, Theater Mania: “[T]hanks to an exceptional company, headed by Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh, this show simply stuns from beginning to end as this bittersweet comedy, intriguingly reset in what seems to be 1950s Russia, unfolds….Roxburgh’s performance carries a flair that elevates the title character to an unusually high intellectual and emotional plane. Thanks to the actor’s nuanced interpretation, audiences genuinely feel that Vanya’s regrets about having spent his life tending to the estate to subsidize the professor’s career have a validity to them….Moreover, when Weaving’s charismatic, spiky and yet, somehow emotionally disconnected Astrov says that he and Vanya are “the only two decent, intelligent men in the district,” audiences cannot help but concur. Both actors also share a distinctly volcanic chemistry with Blanchett, particularly Weaving — whose work opposite her has a steamy awkwardness to it that’s as tantalizing as it is humorous….Further, when Astrov waxes eloquent about the forests that he’s committed to preserving for generations to come, Weaving’s performance has a remarkably zealous incandescence, which is ironically undercut by Ascher’s choice to set the play at the height of the Cold War. One can’t help but sense with sadness the almost impossibility of Astrov’s vision for the future, knowing the hardships that lie in wait for the characters and the world.”

Linda Winer, Newsday: “Just as Chekhov, bless him, understood how desperation and exhilaration roil together in everyday human tragicomedy, Ascher makes the contradictions visible in split-second moments of physical outrageousness — as though, for a moment, we have X-ray vision into the violent hungers beneath the civilized words….Blanchett is elegantly aloof, dressed like an Italian movie star and genuinely funny as Yelena, the languorous, dangerously bored younger wife of an aged, self-important professor whose move from the city disrupts the tedium of the struggling estate. Richard Roxburgh’s Vanya is so provocatively likable that we mourn with him for his wasted drone of a life, while Hugo Weaving exquisitely manages debonair hysteria as Astrov, the idealistic doctor….Who knew how many different kinds of hugs can separate and define human behavior? There is something so delicious about watching three such attractive characters — in fact, watching all these acutely-etched characters by this first-rate company — fly so desperately out of control.”


Photo by Joseph Mazullo/WENN (Possibly the source for the Contact Music photo!) 😉 More WENN cast photos at Playbill.

Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: “Vanya describes Yelena as a goddess, beautiful and untouchable. Blanchett in slinky gowns — cream in the first act, scarlet in the second — fits the bill…. The fleet adaptation is by Blanchett’s husband and co- company head, Andrew Upton. Tamas Ascher’s free-wheeling staging of the play, moves Chekhov’s end-of-the-last-century Russia to the Soviet era. Ascher introduces scenes with what sound like the scores from 1940s cartoons and opera recordings….This Hungarian director takes Chekhov at his word when he called his moody melodramas of unrequited love and mournful lives comedies. There’s some slapstick silliness, and the star proves herself adept at physical comedy… Richard Roxburgh plays Vanya in a raffish, libidinous performance of bottled rage that turns deeply moving when he finally explodes…Plain-jane Sonya (Hayley McElhinney, in a nuanced, restrained performance) is unknowingly competing with her step- mother for the attention of Astrov (rakishly sensitive Hugo Weaving)… Sonya doesn’t stand a chance against Yelena, whose frustration has made her wily, any more than Vanya can compete with the comparatively suave doctor… And so this ‘comedy’ ends in a way that predicts Samuel Beckett, with deep-rooted characters in existential paralysis.”

Matt Windman AM NY: “Tamas Ascher’s richly detailed production, which is updated to the Soviet Union of the 1950s, proves to be engaging and accessible. It can even be very funny, thanks to some clever bits of staging. In one terrific moment, Blanchett throws a blanket over herself to drown out the wailings of Richard Roxburgh, who stands out as a wildly theatrical Vanya….The statuesque Blanchett is made to contrast directly with the grim, deteriorated surroundings of the country estate – where holes have even been punched through the walls – and the rest of the cast, which is dressed in particularly slovenly costumes.”

Melissa Rose Bernardo, EW.com: “There’s something rather funny about the Sydney Theatre Company’s Uncle Vanya…  fans may not remember Astrov (Hugo Weaving) as a badass leather-clad doctor zooming around on a motorcycle from one plague-ridden peasant to another, but Hungarian director Tamás Ascher has set his Vanya in the 1950s — which also explains Cate Blanchett’s Grace Kelly–meets–Marilyn Monroe costumes. No, the really funny thing is, as it turns out, Chekhov himself… Tamas Ascher knows that depression doesn’t have to be a total downer: He’s turned glamazon Yelena’s bonding scene with her ”plain” stepdaughter Sonya (a sensational Hayley McElhinney) into a giggly vodka-soaked slumber party, pillow fight and all. He sends a drunken Astrov tumbling butt-first out a window into a rainstorm. (Turns out Weaving is a surprisingly gifted physical comedian — as is Blanchett, who does a dynamite drunk scene.)…Yet even as the production inserts a few extra comic elements, Ascher doesn’t gloss over the play’s tragic undertow. He actually enhances it. There are still empty, aching voids: Vanya forlornly gazing at Yelena like a lovesick teenager from across the room; simmering stews of anger, as when Yelena shuns her cruel, crotchety old husband, Serebryakov (John Bell); emotionally charged silences as desperately-in-love Sonya enjoys a midnight snack with a completely oblivious Astrov. Chekhov is always about what’s left unsaid; never has his subtext been so explicit as in this superb production.


Photo: Carolyn Contino, BEImages; For high res version and more cast photos, go to Broadway World

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: “Boredom becomes Cate Blanchett. Playing the listless love magnet Yelena in “Uncle Vanya,” the Oscar winner and seasoned stage actress has never appeared more fetchingly seductive, achingly funny or flat-out radiant…Same goes for the Sydney Theatre Company’s sublime take on Anton Chekhov’s popular play…Chalk it up to a perfect theatrical storm: adaptation, direction and cast. The script by Andrew Upton (head of STC and Blanchett’s husband) is crisp and clear and as direct as a poke in the eye. Hungarian director Tamás Ascher’s evocative staging shows care and deep thought at every turn….In a revival filled with moments to recall and savor, Blanchett’s absolutely fabulous flair for physical comedy — from body language to her nimble voice — stands out. But the one that will stay with me longest centers on Sonya. Without a word, a chair is used to show a young woman’s reversion to childhood — so sweet, so sad, so smart….It’s been noted that laughter and crying are the same release. Expect to do both during this smile- and heartache-inducing Uncle Vanya.” (5 Stars)

Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press: “While this production is almost slapstick at times, the multiple heartbreaks are no less impactful…The cast is uniformly strong, particularly Cate Blanchett as bored, unhappy heartbreaker Yelena, Hugo Weaving with an energetic portrayal of alcoholic Doctor Astrov, and Hayley McElhinney, radiantly hopeful as lovesick Sonya. Richard Roxburgh’s Vanya is outstandingly nuanced, a truly heartbroken, irritating yet lovable clown, and John Bell is delightfully oblivious as the pompous, selfish Professor Serebryakov….Every scene is imbued with invigorating, often desperate energy. Doors slam, and characters dance and fight, their self-pity, despair and lassitude flipping into feverish outbursts. Blanchett’s Yelena is cool, graceful and sinuous at first, then becomes clumsy as a filly, nearly tripping over her own long legs in a swirl of painful emotion.”

Review compilations and coverage can be read at The LA Times, The Age, and Curtain Critic (which claims this production is the highest-rated in the history of their site). More to come, including my personal review. 😉

Uncle Vanya in NYC: New Production & Cast Photos, Rapturous Reviews

Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.

Sydney Theatre Company had its formal opening night on July 21 after two “preview” performances the 19th-20th… with such a brief run, these designations seem a bit arbitrary, but the play’s reception is definitely not. Reviews from both average theatergoers (a selection of Twitter comments can be read here) and professional critics continue to be highly enthusiastic.

Even better are the new cast and production photos that hit the internet today: Lincoln Center showcased a generous series of new stills from the production (taken by Stephanie Berger) on their Facebook page. All deserve a look, but here are the ones featuring Hugo. After a less than spectatcular photo documentation of the Kennedy Center run last summer (with only one blurry shot of Hugo Weaving’s Astrov) these are a revelation, and a worthy successor to Lisa Tomasetti’s first-class photos of the Sydney production in 2010.

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Hugo Weaving as Astrov and Anthony Phelan as “Waffles”; Photo: Stephanie Berger/Lincoln Center

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Hayley McElhinney as Sonya, Hugo Weaving as Astrov; Photo: Stephanie Berger/Lincoln Center

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Hayley McElhinney as Sonya, Hugo Weaving as Astrov; Photo: Stephanie Berger/Lincoln Center

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Hayley McElhinney as Sonya, Hugo Weaving as Astrov; Photo: Stephanie Berger/Lincoln Center

There were also new cast photos taken after the Premiere performance on July 21: these originally appeared on Getty Images, Zimbio and Wire Images.


Hugo Weaving, Uncle Vanya Cast Photo Call 21 July 2012; Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images


Jim Spellman/WireImage


Jim Spellman/WireImage


Charles Eshelman/Film Magic


Charles Eshelman/Film Magic


Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images


Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images


Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

One of the most artful (and rhapsodic) reviews of the Kennedy Center production last summer was written by the New York Times’ Ben Brantley, who called the play one of his most enjoyable experiences at the theater at the time; given another chance to see the play, he’s still smitten: “[Tamas] Ascher, a Hungarian director who has seldom worked in English before, has delivered what may be the most profoundly physical, and physically profound, interpretation ever of this 1897 play, which Chekhov disarmingly subtitled ‘scenes from provincial life.’ Working with a cast that dares to spend most of its time onstage somewhere way out on a limb, Mr. Ascher solves the eternal Chekhov conundrum that often brings strong directors to their knees…Are these bleak portraits of hope-starved lives meant to be farce or tragedy? Mr. Ascher’s version says, as persuasively and organically as any production I know, that the answer is both. Life is a tragedy because it’s so farcical. And like many of the characters onstage you may find yourself making noises that could mean you are laughing or crying. And you realize just how fine a line there is between the responses…  And even when two people are unconditionally, magnetically attracted to each other — as Astrov and Yelena are — they don’t know what to do with their bodies. There has seldom been a clumsier, sadder or more fiercely passionate (not to mention acrobatic) kiss than the one shared by Ms. Blanchett and Mr. Weaving in the final scene.”

More is sure to follow, so watch this space. And I hope to see some of you in New York this week! 🙂

New Hugo Weaving interview; More Uncle Vanya Press; More Last Ride Coverage

Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.

While we’re awaiting the first round of Uncle Vanya reviews (and, possibly, more cast photos), a lovely surprise just surfaced on The A.V. Club: they’ve had Hugo Weaving participate in their “Random Roles” forum, “wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them to talk about.” Yes, The Matrix and the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies came up. 😉 But I was impressed with the scope of the other choices, which included my first Hugo Weaving movie, Proof. (This was also the film that brought him to the Wachowskis’ attention, don’t forget. ) Last Ride, the eagerly anticipated Cloud Atlas and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert also got generous attention. Oddly, Uncle Vanya wasn’t discussed, but this is a film-centric website, and they’ve helped spread the word about Last Ride’s US release, so it’s all good. It’s such a balanced, thoughtful exchange that I can’t easily truncate or pull quotes, so full transcript is below the cut. Or just click on the link and read it at their site.

Hugo Weaving on being Elrond, The Matrix’s evil AI, and a kidnapper convict

Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them to talk about.

The actor: Balancing mega-blockbusters and character-driven independent films, Hugo Weaving musters the high style necessary for a elven lord, an evil computer program, and a malevolent Transformer, all while retaining the subtlety to fuel more small-scale films. His latest, Last Ride, is one of the latter, with Weaving playing an abusive ex-convict who takes his estranged son along as they flee through the Australian outback.

Last Ride (2009)—“Kev”
The A.V. Club: It’s an actor-driven movie, which is always attractive. But what drew you to this part in particular?

Hugo Weaving: That he was such a compromised man. That he was so troubled and really in a bad way, and obviously had everything against him, and his upbringing, and… I mean, if you read the book, you get a sense of—beautiful book, by the way—Kev’s childhood and what he had to struggle with with his father. You feel like it’s a continuum—what’s happening with him and his own son —except even worse. And so it’s the spiral of that. The flashes of time when Kev reveals his love for his son, I found really poignant and quite beautiful. I think it is a love story. It’s certainly a love story in the book; slightly less so in the film. The film’s a little bleaker—well, a lot bleaker, actually, and darker. But it still really is about the particular relationship between these two damaged individuals, and I think that was a thing that interested me in the character. The reason I was interested in the film is because I loved the script, and I’d seen Glendyn [Ivin]’s first short, an absolutely beautiful film called “Cracker Bag,” and that won an award at Cannes. I was really keen to work with him, so it didn’t take much, really.

AVC: You shot Last Ride three or four years ago at this point?

HW: Yes.

AVC: So it was just after a run of movies you’d done with a substantial amount of bluescreen and makeup and masks. Was it a relief to just go out in the bush with a camera and a small crew and make a movie that way?

HW: That’s actually the norm for me, so the change of pace is the big-budget mask thing, actually. The last few years, I have to say, I haven’t done so many small-budget Australian films, but that’s only been very recently, the last couple of years—since Last Ride, actually. But that, to me, was the more common experience: small crew, in the outback. And that’s the sort of film I love working on. That’s the thing I’ll always try to return to. I’m about to, in another month, do a similar, very low-budget film up in Queensland with an extraordinarily talented young director called Ivan Sen. I really love working with writer-directors on films in this country. Very low-budget, maybe a five- or six-week shoot, and that’s it. I think there’s a great energy that comes with working on films in that way. It’s a real pleasure to go to work when you’re in the most extraordinary surroundings, and working with people who are young and interested and creatively keen. I find it really stimulating, and just beautiful to be out in nature as well. So that’s something I peg as an absolute pleasure. There’s nothing like being on a massive-budget film where you don’t know anything, and there’s a million people, and no one’s communicating. So I generally prefer the smaller-budget film. I find both of them really great for me; they just stretch me in different ways.

AVC: There’s a visually stunning scene where you and your son are driving across this immense salt flat. Is that Lake Gairdner?

HW: Yeah.

AVC: How does it figure into your performance when you know you’re being framed in front of such an astonishing backdrop?

HW: Well, you see, that’s why I love location. You don’t have to do anything. I’ve never seen a film crew taking so many pictures of where they were. [Laughs.] Because it was exquisite. Absolutely exquisite. We were there for a couple of days. And the landscape would change dramatically, as well. You get a slight wind and it would feel like you’re in the Antarctic, and then it would go very still, and suddenly it’d be on a desert island or something. Then it would have this amazing reflective glass effect. There was a couple of inches of water along the salt flat, and everything would be completely reflected. And by the end of the day, if it was getting windy and the salt was flicking up, it would get in your eyes and on your lips and everything. So it’s an absolutely beautiful landscape. It just means you don’t have to… In a way, it permeates your being, and I think locations do that to you. They give you so much and you don’t have to pretend.

The Matrix (1999)/The Matrix Reloaded (2003)/The Matrix Revolutions (2003)—“Agent Smith”
AVC: When you’re making a movie like The Matrix, and the whole trilogy is about a world that doesn’t exist—on a number of levels—what do you feed off in those circumstances?

HW: The good humor of the directors, with The Matrix—very good relationship with them. But onThe Matrix, there were only a couple of days that I was working on green-screen. The sets on that were phenomenal, so I was always standing there going, “Well, this set is so real that it feels like this is the world I’m in.” Because the sets were so good, it didn’t feel particularly… And we were on location quite a lot for that. But something like The Hobbit would be more… Working on that last year, there was a definitely a lot more green-screen. There’s much more of a distance between… You see these extraordinary makeup transformations in front of your eyes, yet behind that, there’s a green flat. And so there’s quite a distance, quite a journey to make between… You’re constantly aware that this is a film reality that you need to augment with performance and your imagination, and that’s fine. That’s the world of The Hobbit and of Lord Of The Rings. I mean, again, there are sometimes the most exquisite sets, so it’s not always the case. And other times, you’re on location. But there seems to be more green-screen with that than anything I’ve ever done.

The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)/The Two Towers (2002)/The Return Of The King(2003)/The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)/The Hobbit: There And Back Again (2013)—“Elrond”
AVC: How different was making the Hobbit movies from doing the Lord Of The Ringstrilogy? It’s the same director, and a few of the same cast as well.

HW: Well, tonally, I think the film is slightly different, but the experience didn’t seem radically different, to be honest. If anything, it was slightly more green-screen and slightly less set. But a lot of the same people, both in the crew and some of the cast. Going back and standing with Ian McKellen on the set again 10 years later, we felt very much at home, in a way, and very much like no time had passed at all. A lot of the other cast were different from The Lord Of The Rings, but it felt like a very similar experience. Actually, I was back there just the other day doing some post-production and went onto set, and I was just thinking, “Well, it’s been a year since I’ve been here—10 years, really, since we started—but it feels like the same family group has been making films there for that long.”

AVC: In the trailer, Bag End looks exactly as it does when we see Bilbo living there in the trilogy. Is it the same set?

HW: You know, I’m not sure. I would hesitate to say it was. I would think it wasn’t. But there may be some elements. I would have thought not, but possibly, yeah.

Cloud Atlas (2012)—various undisclosed roles
AVC: Cloud Atlas seems like an enormously complicated project, combining six stories shot by two sets of directors: the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. How does that work?

HW: That was the most wonderful adventure, really. It was an extraordinary time in Berlin. Absolutely wonderful experience. I think everyone agreed it was like nothing anyone had ever done before, running from one director to another or from one set to another, potentially playing up to, well, I suppose up to six characters in one week. That’s a very unusual experience. And then there’s a lot of downtime because there’s six stories going on and you’re not in every part of every one of those stories. A lot of the English actors would be able to go home for a week or two and then come back, but because I live in Australia and I was in Berlin, I just stayed. So I lived in Berlin for three and a half months, which was actually a dream come true. I loved it. It’s a very special project, and a wonderful, wonderful book, and a really great script adaptation. Something that in the end, after the readthrough—which was really exciting, all the actors there at the beginning of the shoot—I think everyone realized, despite all the preparatory work that had been done, there were certain things which we weren’t going to know about until we jumped in and did it. So we all took a sort of big, brave leap and jumped in and started filming, and it was a really, genuinely exciting adventure. I’m as eager as anyone else to see it. I think it’s a really, really brave, difficult project that could be very exciting to watch. I hope it is. I think everyone really loved working on it.

AVC: How did splitting the stories up work in practical terms?

HW: There were three stories each, basically. Lana and Andy [Wachowski] did three, and Tom did three. Tom’s crew was largely the crew he’s worked with for years, and Lana and Andy’s crew—a lot of the crew were English, and some of them had worked on V For Vendetta and had worked with them in Berlin in the past as well. That was the division of labor: three stories each. Actually, I think initially Tom had wanted to do one particular story and Lana and Andy had wanted to do another one, and they needed to swap because of the way the locations were set up. They ended up not doing one of the stories they particularly wanted to do; they just swapped. They have an incredibly good relationship, Tom and Lana and Andy. It was delightful to first meet Tom on a video-conference Skype with Lana and Andy, who I know very well, and just see immediately that they were literally bouncing off each other and were getting on very, very well. And that was maintained all the way through the shoot. The editing process is something I’m not so sure about. I think that would have been more problematic and difficult, but I suspect, knowing the three of them, that they got on extremely well throughout that and managed to express what they wanted and to fight for the film as they all talked about it in the first place. I don’t envisage there being any problems between the three of them. I think that’s kind of remarkable. A testament to all three of them, actually.

Proof (1991)—“Martin”
AVC: Going back to small Australian projects, Proof was something of a breakthrough for you, wasn’t it? Not your first movie, but a wonderful introduction to you and director Jocelyn Moorhouse. Did it seem like an important project for you at the time?

HW: It wasn’t my first, you’re right, but it was the first film script I received and I thought, “This is the sort of film I want to be in.” And I just thought, “I really want that role. I really want to be in this film.” And again, it was a first-time filmmaker, and she’d written the script. There’s something about that combination that’s really… Knowing that something’s small-budget, and it’s a writer-director. If the script grabs me and appeals to me, I’m really very keen to work on it. Even if that director hasn’t… They’ve been to film school, but this is their first feature. Sometimes that makes me want to do it more, because I think there’s probably something fantastically fresh and different about them and their approach. So I was very keen when I read that to be involved in that. And went along, met Jocelyn, did the audition, got the role. For me, that was a definite watershed in my fairly early career. I felt, “Ah, this is where I want to be.” Those sort of films come along quite rarely, you know. [Laughs.] I think I’ve done maybe five or six films that I’ve had that sense. I really want to work on those films during my time in Australia. That was the first of those films.

AVC: You had Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert not long after Proof, which put you on the map, but your costar, Russell Crowe, took a few more years to catch on.

HW: He seemed very keen to head over to the States and have a career there, which wasn’t ever my… I wasn’t ever going to go and live there.  I can’t remember exactly the dates, but it seemed within three or four years of Proof that he was already working in Hollywood, and working in L.A., and doing films over there. I can’t remember how long it took, but certainly he became a major box-office star, didn’t he?

The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert (1994)—“Anthony ‘Tick’ Belrose”/“Mitzi Del Bra”
AVC: It’s almost hard to remember how groundbreaking it seemed to have a movie about drag queens in the mid-’90s, characters who were campy, but also short-tempered and dangerous. Was that all in the script? Did you do your own research?

HW: No, the script was there. The writer [Stephan Elliott] is definitely an extraordinary character, and very smart. Can be very caustic, a lot of fun. I had worked with him on a film prior to that [Frauds], and in fact we’d worked on a number of films before that, with him as a runner or a second AD. So no, it was there in the script, but as we grew into characters, then… I mean, Terence [Stamp] and I and Guy [Pearce] were out in drag in the streets of Sydney before the film started, going out to clubs and things to sort of get into character. [Laughs.] And so those sort of things grew as the shoot progressed. We would be adding and changing little bits and pieces, and increasingly wearing the clothes of some of our makeup artists, one of whom was a drag queen himself—Guy’s makeup artist. I sort of started stealing his clothes and wearing them throughout the shoot. So it grew, but a lot of that was in the script, or what was happening on the day. But Stephan was very amenable to that.

You can sense from this that Hugo will love heading back to Australia to work on Mystery Road, his next film, directed by Ivan Sen.  Ideally international audiences won’t have to wait as long for it as they did for Last Ride. Speaking of Last Ride, it opens in the Minneapolis/St Paul market this weekend, and continues to accrue positive notices:

Nathan Kamal, Spectrum Culture: ” Last Ride is the first full length film from director Glendyn Ivin, though you’d never know it. While the downfall of far too many first time directors is a lamentable tendency to throw in every cinematic trick in the book to demonstrate the breadth of their skill, Last Ride is a stark, simple movie…. And while [Tom] Russell portrays the childish petulance and anger of Chook well, it’s Weaving that’s the heart of the film. He captures Kev perfectly, a man who’s well aware of the mistakes he’s made but doesn’t know what to do with the life he’s made. He hits the notes of fatherhood just right (as in a scene where he dunks Chook in a pond to try to teach him to swim, something all fathers are apparently obligated to do), as well as the lack of self control that periodically erupts in rage. Last Ride is remarkable film for several reasons, but it’s most worth watching for Weaving.”

Colin Covert, Vita.mn/Minneapolis Star Tribune: “In this outback road movie, Australian actor Hugo Weaving dirties up to play Kev, an ex-con on a camping trip with his 10-year-old son Chook (the flawlessly naturalistic Tom Russell). The dynamic between the two is as mysterious and unforgiving as the desert vistas they travel. Their relationship is love and suspicion, rejection and dependency, faith and disappointment all in a knot. Weaving finds Kev’s humanity, winning our grudging pity for a hothead doomed by his nitroglycerine temper and thoughtlessness. Stunning camerawork by Greig Fraser (“Snow White and the Huntsman”) finds eerie beauty in desolate landscapes. The title more or less gives away the film’s design, but the predestined journey is taut and tragic nevertheless.”

There is also a selection of interesting stories from actors who played extras in Last Ride at Squidoo, a well-written review for the Australian release at Onya Magazine, and US reviews at Bloomberg and News Review.

Cate Blanchett has been given most of the Uncle Vanya promotional duties (often shared with husband/co-STC artistic director Andrew Upton), and carried them off with insight and panache, speaking to The Wall Street Journal (video), NY1 (video), The LA Times, Playbill, The New York Times, and New York Monthly. The NY Times piece also includes comments from Richard Roxburgh, and the video interviews include snippets of play footage, all from STC’s brilliant promotional trailer (below). Roxburgh and Blanchett gave their most in-depth interview last summer during the Kennedy Center run, filling a segment of PBS’s News Hour:

Early, informal reviews to the current production of Uncle Vanya remain wildly enthusiastic. I’ll share more as the story develops, but it’s an exciting week.

Uncle Vanya Cast Arrive in NYC; The Hobbit at SDCC

Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.

Yes, tonight is the premiere of Sydney Theatre Company’s Uncle Vanya in New York. And the cast posed for a series of publicity photos last night!


L to R: Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Cate Blanchett, Sandy Gore, John Bell, Jacki Weaver, Andrew Tighe, Hayley McElhinney and Anthony Phelan Source (all photos): Mike Coppola/Getty Images North America

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WireImage photos: by Jamie McCarthy (found a few in smaller but unmarked versions too; adding both)

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WireImage/ Jamie McCarthy


Mike Coppola/Getty Images North America
All photos taken at Lincoln Center’s City Center Theater, New York on July 18. Thanks also to my Twitter pals Italglish and Yvette for photo hunt assistance. 😉 (Note: These are the Zimbio versions of the Getty pics. Zimbio is well known in fan circles as a tidy work-around if you want to avoid Getty watermarks, but they don’t (yet) have the WireImage photos. I did try to embed the pics the way Zimbio did (ie so you can click on pics to see largest version) but obviously that didn’t “take”, so I’m revising to use the big versions. Sorry for the “technical difficultues”– been a crazy day. I’m glad so many of you are eagerly following this play. I did find some unwatermarked WireImage pics at MSN.com (they’re included here), however, and will keep updating to include/link to the best versions of all images.)

UPDATE: Larger versions of the Getty pics can be viewed at Just Jared.

Cate Blanchett gave an extended interview promoting the production and discussing her career and future plans to the LA Times on July 14 en route to New York; no updates on the proposed production of Waiting for Godot (possibly starring Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburg next year) but she said the following about Vanya: “[Yelena, her character] isn’t even onstage all that much. The role is always the last point of attraction. It’s the collaboration that’s the real enticement…  “If you only exercise your soloist muscles, the other muscles quickly atrophy.”

“What Tamas [Ascher, the director] is able to find in Chekhov is the Chaplinesque quality, the melancholy of the clown,” says [Andrew] Upton. “There are indeed moments that you would call slapstick. Astrov, who’s played by Hugo Weaving, falls out of a window. Cate’s character falls through a door that opens behind her. But they’re not gratuitous moments. They occur at points when everything is getting a little mad and silly because of the growing passions between people that are unexpressed.”

UPDATE: There’s a new Cate Blanchett interview, emphasizing her theatrical career, over at Playbill.com; it misrepresents Hugo Weaving somewhat (not Cate, the interviewer) but we’re used to that from the entertainment press. In fact, Hugo’s career has been as expansive and diverse as Cate’s, with Hollywood villain roles a small minority of his work. And please, can any American writer figure out that Richard Roxburgh has delivered a huge volume of excellent performances since his rather one-note role in Moulin Rouge? 😉 But as always, Cate has a lot of interesting observations: “You never really give it up [working for the STC], of course…I’ll continue to act for the company. In fact, we just set our final season [as artistic directors], and I’m going to be in one of the plays. I’ve been working with these actors so long there they’re all like family now.”

The Sydney Theatre Company blog recently posted two entries in honor of the production: one featuring a series of historical, scholarly appraisals of the play, the other saluting STC’s history of touring overseas. (They mention 2006’s Hedda Gabler at BAM, which costarred Weaving and Blanchett, as well as Blanchett’s star turn in A Streetcar Named Desire in 2009… but alas, no photos of Hugo Weaving’s first theatrical role on US soil, a production of The Perfectionist (by David Williamson) that played the Spoleto Festival back in 1984. (They do mention the production, to be fair.) 😉

Most of you probably already know there was a bit of hubbub surrounding The Hobbit at this year’s Comic Con in San Diego last week; if so, you’ve also already checked out TheOneRing.Net‘s wall-to-wall coverage. Hugo didn’t attend (and wasn’t in the US until a few days ago) but Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, Elijah Wood and of course Peter Jackson were on hand to showcase some new footage (none of which managed to make it to the web, alas) and discuss the film with fans and the press. There was apparently a tiny bit of Elrond footage in the new segments shown.  The busy and meticulous folks at TORN have collected and synthesized links to all the tremendous amount of coverage online– far better than I could. Den of Geek did post the full Hall H panel in HD if you’re just after a quick overview. Peter Jackson made some ambiguous comments about wanting to shoot (even) more footage, which fans are taking to mean everything from Expanded Edition versions of the two planned films to turning The Hobbit into a trilogy. I’m more inclined to believe the former… but we’ll have to wait and see. 😉 When asked if he planned to adapt The Silmarillion (which traces the history of Middle Earth’s Elves, including Elrond’s background), Jackson quipped “I think the chances of me living past 100 are slim,” and added he doesn’t own the rights. If you want the recently-debuted new still of Elrond in HD (from the Entertainment Weekly set) in HD, go here. If you want the set in even Higher Def, go here. 😉 Plus, we’re promised a new, possibly final Production Video from PJ soon. No word on whether it will include Hugo’s recent stop in New Zealand for post-production work.

Uncle Vanya news, reviews and photos should be coming in later tonight and through the week… I’ll update as often as my schedule will permit, and hope I’m able to see some of you in New York. 🙂