The film consists almost entirely of a long conversation between two acquaintances in an upscale restaurant in New York City. It is based largely on actual conversations between Gregory and Shawn, and covers such subjects as experimental theatre, the nature of theatre, and the nature of reality. Gregory is the focus of the first hour of the film as he describes some of his experiences since he gave up his career as a theatre director in 1975. These include working with his friend Jerzy Grotowski and a group of Polish actors in a forest in Poland, his visit to Findhorn in Scotland and his trip to the Sahara to try and create a play based on The Little Prince. The rest of the film is a conversation as Shawn tries to argue that living life as Gregory has done for the past five years is simply not possible for the vast majority of people. In response, Gregory suggests that what passes for normal life in New York in the late 1970s is more akin to living in a dream than it is to real life. The Boston Society of Film Critics Awards awarded the film the title "Best American Film" in 1982 and awarded Gregory and Shawn its prize for best screenplay.
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