The Help star leads the cast of the stage production as Catherine Sloper, a shy young woman yearning for her wealthy, intimidating father's acceptance, but many theatre critics felt she struggled to make the transformation from a meek girl to a raging woman.
The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney brands the actress "underpowered" and laments her "inconsistency of characterisation", while the New York Post's Elisabeth Vincantelli was disappointed that Chastain failed to bring more fury to the play's most famous line, when Sloper declares, "Yes, I can be cruel. I have been taught by masters!"
Vincantelli writes, "The words should hit us like a hammer. Here, they barely graze."
Chastain's performance - in the role made famous by Olivia de Havilland in William Wyler's 1949 movie adaptation - wasn't a winning one for The New York Times writer Ben Brantley or Newsday's Linda Winer either.
Comparing the revival to Cherry Jones' Tony Award-winning stint in the same role in a 1995 production, Brantley states, "I never felt the urgency of filial and romantic love festering into vengeful hatred, which should inform any production of The Heiress."
But it wasn't all bad for Chastain - Bloomberg News critic Jeremy Gerard applauds her take on Sloper as "close to perfect", and Entertainment Weekly's reviewer gives The Heiress an A grade, writing, "In her Broadway debut, Chastain conveys social discomfort and awkwardness without veering into caricature."
Director Moises Kaufman also took his fair share of criticism - Winer blasts him for his "emotionally simplistic production", while Rooney blames Chastain's mediocre turn on "questionable directorial choices".
The actress' co-stars David Strathairn and Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens enjoyed better reviews, but it was the "sublimely funny" Judith Ivey who garnered the highest praise from the media, putting on a "great" and "delightful" performance as the amused Aunt Lavinia.
The Heiress runs at New York's Walter Kerr Theater until February (13).
Chastain, who is currently nominated for a Golden Globe for her turn in The Help, will hit the stage this autumn (12).
The actress will portray a shy young woman yearning for her wealthy father's acceptance in the show, which will be directed by Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo veteran Moises Kaufman.
Her role was most famously played on the big screen by Olivia de Havilland in 1949.
The play, which was written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, premiered in New York in 1947. It last appeared on Broadway in 1995.
The actress returned to the stage after a 45-year break to star in the Moises Kaufman play on Broadway and then agreed to lead the cast when the show opened in Los Angeles last month (Feb11).
But the current run proved a little too much for the 73 year old.
Talking to Scissor Sisters star Jake Shears for the current issue of Out magazine, while the show was still running, Fonda revealed she was struggling.
She said, "I don't think I'll do another one (play) again. It just takes over your life.
"I wake up and I feel like a truck ran over me, and then I have to do the play again.
"I'm glad I did it. It was a success. I don't want to do it again because there are too many things in life I like to do."
Fonda's run in the Kaufman play ended earlier this month (Mar11).
The actress is reprising her Broadway role in Moises Kaufman's 33 Variations when the play comes to Los Angeles at the end of January (11) - and Fonda is planning to lift the curtain on the theatre world by blogging about her experiences.
The 73 year old started blogging regularly in early 2009 when she hit the stage in 33 Variations at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York, and now she's excited about writing an online journal again.
In a post to fans on her blog, she writes, "I intend to do as I did while in the play in NY... blog every day about the experience.
"I have never done theatre here and I am very excited to rejoin the cast... This is also the first time (I) have done a play for the 2nd time and I am curious to see what will be new, what discoveries I will make having had 2 more years of growing up."
In the play, Fonda plays a terminally ill musicologist. She received a Tony nomination for her performance on Broadway.
Billy Elliot, The Musical is leading the way at this year's Tony Awards after scooping 15 nominations -- tying with The Producers for the most nominations ever garnered by one show.
Click here for full coverage of the Tonys and all things Broadway!
The production, based on the 2000 film about a coal miner's son who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, will go up against Next To Normal, Shrek The Musical and Rock of Ages in the coveted Best Musical category at the 63rd annual ceremony, which honors the best on Broadway.
Elton John, who has been nominated for the show's original score, says of the nomination: "It's been an amazing experience. It's made an incredible impact on my life."
The drama 33 Variations was nominated for Best Play, competing against God of Carnage, Dividing the Estate and Reasons to be Pretty.
Meanwhile, Hollywood actors James Gandolfini and Jeff Daniels, who both star in God of Carnage, have been pitted against each other for the Leading Actor in a Play award.
Their co-stars Marcia Gay Harden and Hope Davis will battle it out in the Leading Actress in a Play category, which also includes veteran actress Jane Fonda for her role as a dying musicologist in 33 Variations.
The winners will be announced on June 7 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
The main list of nominees is as follows:
Dividing the Estate - Horton Foote
God of Carnage - Yasmina Reza
Reasons to be Pretty - Neil LaBute
33 Variations - Moises Kaufman
Next to Normal
Rock of Ages
Shrek the Musical
Leading Actor in a Play:
Jeff Daniels - God of Carnage
Raul Esparza - Speed-the-Plow
James Gandolfini - God of Carnage
Geoffrey Rush - Exit the King
Thomas Sadoski - Reasons to be Pretty
Leading Actress in a Play:
Hope Davis - God of Carnage
Jane Fonda - 33 Variations
Marcia Gay Harden - God of Carnage
Janet McTeer - Mary Stuart
Harriet Walter - Mary Stuart
Leading Actor in a Musical:
David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, Kiril Kulish - Billy Elliot
Gavin Creel - Hair
Brian d'Arcy James - Shrek the Musical
Constantine Maroulis - Rock of Ages
J. Robert Spencer - Next to Normal
Leading Actress in a Musical:
Stockard Channing - Pal Joey
Sutton Foster - Shrek the Musical
Allison Janney - 9 to 5
Alice Ripley - Next to Normal
Josefina Scaglione - West Side Story
Next to Normal
9 to 5
Shrek the Musical
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