Broadway actress Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) rehearses for her latest play about a woman unable to admit that she is aging. When she witnesses the accidental death of an adoring young fan, she begins to confront the personal and professional turmoil she faces in her own life.
Myrtle/Virginia: Let’s take this play. Let’s dump it upside down and see if we can’t find something human in it.
Myrtle/Virginia: I seem to have lost the reality of the... reality.
Myrtle/Virginia: Well, I am not me! I used to be me. I'm not me anymore.
Maurice/Marty: We are not we! We are... –
Myrtle/Virginia: Okay, it's definite, then. We've been invaded! There’s someone posing here as us! ... What do you suppose they've done with us? Do you think they killed us? Do you think they murdered us? Do you think we're dead?
“Two hours and thirty minutes of theatre. Shot on stages with live audiences reacting freely to the writing and performing. The pain of madness and the joy of theatricality are shown to you in a never before seen style.”
Original press kit of the film
“Opening Night is the other side of A Woman Under the Influence (1974), about a woman on her own, with no responsibility to anyone but herself, with a need to come together with other women. Myrtle is alone and in desperate fear of losing the vulnerability she feels she needs as an actress. She is a woman unable any longer to be regarded as young: sex is no longer a viable weapon. The film shows a woman and her dreams and fantasies that she confuses with reality. And suddenly someone puts an end to her fantasies after so many years and says to her, ‘You don’t like this play because you’re getting old.’ She doesn’t believe at first that that could be right, but she can’t prove it. You never see her as a stupendous actress. As a matter of fact, her greatest thrill was comfort, as it is for most actresses. Give me a play I can go into every night and can feel I have some awareness of who I am, what I am. She didn’t want to expose herself in certain areas. So when she faints and screams on the stage, it’s because it’s so impossible to be told you are this boring character, you are aging and you are just like her. I would be unable to go onto the stage feeling that I’m nothing. I think that most actors would, and that’s really what the picture is about.”
Flyer for Opening Night. Drawing by Peter Falk.
- 1. John Cassavetes quoted in Ray Carney, Cassavetes on Cassavetes (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 2001), 413-414.