In the late 1980s, noted theatrical director Andre Gregory assembled a group of friends and actors and began rehearsing a new translation of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya by David Mamet, not with any specific performance in mind but as a way of exploring the beauty and precise construction of Chekhov's play. Louis Malle, a friend of Gregory's, became interested in the project and spent two weeks filming Gregory's actors as they performed Uncle Vanya without an audience in a run-down theater near New York's Times Square. In these performances, the line between theater and real life is blurred as conversations between actors -- juggling take-out cups of coffee and wearing street clothes -- slowly grow into a superb performance of Chekhov's classic, with Wallace Shawn as Vanya, Julianne Moore as Yelena, Brooke Smith as Sonya, and Larry Pine as Dr. Astrov. With a certain sad irony, this marvelously realized adaptation of a play about people wondering what they've done with their lives proved to be Louis Malle's final film; he died of cancer in 1995.
by Mark Deming synopsis