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Plot, Details & Awards

A Life in the Theater

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Plot & Details

Originally made for cable television, this adaptation of an early play by author David Mamet focuses on the backstage relationship between two actors: Robert, an aging veteran and John, a young greenhorn. The pair, who share a dressing room in a repertory theatre, work together over the course of a season, performing in everything from poetic Elizabethan works to modern-day medical melodrama. Short glimpses of these plays alternate with equally brief glimpses backstage, terse exchanges between Robert and John that largely focus on evaluating that evening's performance and discussing the art of the theatre. As in much of Mamet's writing, however, much lies below the surface, with the progression of short scenes hinting at unspoken power struggles and deeper relationships. The film is directed by Gregory Mosher, who had directed the initial theatrical production of A Life in the Theatre, American Buffalo, and several other Mamet plays. Matthew Broderick portrays the younger actor, while the role of the older actor is assayed by Jack Lemmon, who had not long before won acclaim for his work on another Mamet film adaptation, Glengarry Glen Ross.

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