The film Opening Night by John Cassavetes, is about the rehearsals for a play that is about to premiere on Broadway in New York. The play itself, written by a renowned playwright, revolves around the circumstances of a middle-aged woman and her difficulties coming to terms with growing older. Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands), a theatre star and the protagonist, herself at the supposedly difficult age, thinks nothing of the play or the staging. On the contrary, she feels bullied, instrumentalised, exposed and put on display in the way she has to make herself available for the author‘s interpretation with her age and body. The accidental death of a young theatre enthusiast at the rehearsal venue has a traumatising effect on Myrtle and at the same time confronts her with a youthful reflection of herself.
She rebels to the point where rehearsals become virtually impossible. The director and other actors use all the stops to get her back on track.
When Myrtle arrives much too late for the Broadway premiere, she is drunk to the point of passing out, but insists on going on stage. She boycotts the scenes in an anarchic manner, letting others‘ dialogue fall flat, and in the process making it impossible for the other actors on stage to follow the play. The production takes on grotesque forms and threatens to collapse before the audience‘s eyes. Finally, her acting partner Maurice (John Cassavetes) jumps to her side, abandons the script and joins her in the frenzy of an improvised dialogue that they develop together on stage.