Since 1989, Andre Gregory has directed rehearsals of Chekhov's 'Uncle Vanya' at a disused theatre in New York with audiences of no more than thirty sharing the ever-evolving work, and the stage, with the players. In 1994, director Louis Malle introduced his camera, capturing in intimate simplicity the magical transformations of this legendary theatrical experience.
Moving seamlessly from the casual conversations of the actors and guests, who converge upon the derelict splendour of the New Amsterdam on 42nd Street, into the first lines of David Mamet's contemporary adaptation, Vanya on 42nd Street is a sheer delight on every level. The power of the performances-especially Wallace Shaw as the despondent Vanya, and Julianne Moore as the lovely, yet elusive Yelena, object of his defeated desire-illuminate every frame, and Malle's precise cinematic eye turns on the intensity of a character's single look, creating an imaginative, highly detailed and beautifully tailored film from the simple fabric of shadow and passion. Like the cradling hull of some great ship, the decaying theatre seems to transport the players into another realm and indeed uniting Malle, Gregory and Shaw (My Dinner with Andre) with the delicate genius of Chekhov is surely a match made in Heaven.