(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/7.)

What blissfully irritating people they are. Cranks, I believe, is the word that keeps coming up to describe them. Under most circumstances I’d run a country mile to avoid being trapped in a room with the desperate characters now inhabiting the Sydney Theater Company’s production of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” at the Kennedy Center here. Yet I consider the three hours I spent on Saturday night watching them complain about how bored they are among the happiest of my theatergoing life.

Staged by the Hungarian director Tamas Ascher — and featuring a brilliant daredevil performance by Cate Blanchett as a chipped trophy wife — this “Uncle Vanya” gets under your skin like no other I have seen. For what is created here is an ever-pulsing portrait of just how impossible and essential it is to live in close quarters with those maddening creatures called human beings, especially those you regard (Heaven help you) as family.


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