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With Jim Sabatini

Vanya on 42nd Street

Vanya on 42nd Street
Wallace Shawn, George Gaynes, Julianne Moore, Larry Pine and Brooke Smith

Rated: PG 
Reviewed by: Linda  
Release date: September 13, 1994 Released by: Sony Pictures

Vanya on 42nd Street is a final rehearsal of the David Mamet interpretation of Chekhov's 90-year-old play, Uncle Vanya. Filmed at the rehearsal site, the abandoned New Amsterdam Theatre on New York City's 42nd Street, it is not your typical American film. The cast runs through the play in its entirety, pausing only during the scheduled intermissions and chatting amongst themselves. The performers' informal rehearsal attire allows us to take in Chekhov's timeless themes without the distraction that period costumes would have created.

The play highlights the inconsistencies of human convictions, Vanya (Wallace Shawn) detest the professor (George Gaynes) because of his self-absorption and freeloading ways, yet constantly focuses his attention on himself and has been financially dependent on his sister for his entire adult life. The professor's wife, Yelena (Julianne Moore), has married a much older man after falling in love with his intellect and power, yet remains bored and apathetic about developing a life and mind of her own. The doctor (Larry Pine) presents an image of himself as a man of substance, tending to the sick and cultivating a forest, et he falls in love with Yelena because of her physical beauty, rather than his admirer, Sonya (Brooke Smith), the professor's morally pure young daughter. Both Vanya and Yelena feel powerless and unfulfilled, resenting the professor for his power over their lives. However, they each made a choice long ago to latch onto his coattails and travel through life on the wings of his achievements.

Director Louis Malle has captured the brilliant performances of the cast and has presented to us Chekhov's thought provoking themes to explore. The weightiness of the dialogue is, at times, tiresome. But overall, I enjoyed the film and the reflections that followed.

  Frank Chris Linda  Avg. 
Vanya on 42nd Street        B+   B+ 

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