Sydney draws thesp pair to helm

Blanchett to fly with 'Blackbird'

SYDNEY — Cate Blanchett will direct David Harrower’s dark drama “Blackbird” and Philip Seymour Hoffman will helm the world premiere of Andrew Upton’s “Riflemind” as part of the Sydney Theater Company’s 2007 season.

Continuing their association with STC after the 2004 staging of “Hedda Gabler,” which starred Blanchett and was adapted by her husband, Upton, the couple will make their directing debuts in December with a previously announced double bill. Blanchett will stage Harold Pinter’s “A Kind of Alaska,” while Upton directs David Mamet’s “Reunion.”

Securing Hoffman, in what will be his first directing job Down Under, was a coup for Upton. Hugo Weaving will take the play’s lead role, a comeback rocker who once fronted the biggest band in the world. Weaving also appeared in “Hedda Gabler,” both in Sydney and during the production’s New York transfer run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

A critical hit last season in London’s West End, “Blackbird” chronicles the gripping encounter between a middle-aged man and a young woman from his past who shows up unexpectedly in his office. Joe Mantello will direct the Manhattan Theater Club production Off Broadway in the spring, starring Jeff Daniels and Alison Pill.

In addition to “Riflemind,” STC’s other new Aussie play next season is Michael Cove’s drama about traveling entertainers circa 1919, “Troupers.”

While vet playwright David Williamson announced his retirement from writing new plays last year, one of his best-known works, “Don’s Party,” will be revived by STC in 2007. (In January, Williamson will direct his own adaptation of “Lotte’s Gift” across the harbor at Ensemble Theater.)

Also in the 2007 season, STC topper Robyn Nevin will star opposite Max Cullen in Don DeLillo’s “Love Lies Bleeding,” helmed by Lee Lewis in her mainstage debut. The company also will stage Melbourne Theater Company’s Helpmann Award-winning production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

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