The film depicts a conversation between Gregory and Shawn (not necessarily playing themselves) in a chic restaurant in New York City. Based mostly on conversation, the film’s dialogue covers such things as experimental theatre, the nature of theatre, and the nature of life, contrasting Shawn’s modest, down-to-earth humanism with Gregory’s extravagant spiritual experiences.
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 to create a play based on The Little Prince. Perhaps Gregory’s most dramatic experience was working with a small group of people on a piece of performance art on Long Island which resulted in Gregory being (briefly) buried alive on Halloween night.
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 movie ends without a clear resolution to the conflict in worldviews articulated by the two men. Shawn reminisces during a taxi ride back home about his childhood and mentions that when he arrives at home he tells his girlfriend Debbie about his dinner with Andre, as Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1 plays in the background.
“Andre: “OK. Yes, we are bored. We’re all bored now. But has it ever occurred to you Wally that the process that creates this boredom that we see in the world now may very well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brainwashing, created by a world totalitarian government based on money, and that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks? and it’s not just a question of individual survival Wally, but that somebody who’s bored is asleep, and somebody who’s asleep will not say no?”
~ My Dinner with Andre”