Vanya on 42nd Street

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A select audience gathers for André Gregory's workshop production of Uncle Vanya in Broadway's crumbling New Amsterdam theatre. The staging is sparse - a table, a few chairs - and Malle's direction is as discreetly self-effacing as Gregory's, shifting from cinéma vérité in the establishing sequence to a more intimate style as the drama casts its spell (intervals are respected with the minimum of fuss). Thus we can concentrate on David Mamet's fluent, sensitive adaptation and some (unexpectedly) enthralling performances: Shawn as the wretched, resentful Vanya; Gaynes - a long way from the 'Police Academy' - as the Professor; and Julianne Moore as his lovely, long-suffering wife Yelena. Moore is simply outstanding, composed and modulated, shouldering her companions' pain with a compassion and forbearance that's also a kind of defeat. Chekhov's astonishingly modern fin de siècle concerns are expressed with a rare and vivid clarity: ennui, environment, old age, the difficulty of change, and the disappointments of love. There's more power here than in all the multi-million dollar fireworks of Hollywood.

Release details

Duration: 120 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Louis Malle
Screenwriter: David Mamet
Cast: Wallace Shawn
Julianne Moore
André Gregory
George Gaynes
Brooke Smith
Larry Pine
Phoebe Brand
Lynn Cohen
Jerry Mayer
Madhur Jaffrey
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