By Lawrence Frascella
February 14, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

In tackling these classics by Shakespeare and Chekhov, red-hot stage and film director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) bid a grand farewell to his London theatrical home — the Donmar Warehouse — where he built his celebrity-level rep on a smart, audacious talent for revisionism. Now his parting shots have arrived at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where Mendes — who, at 37, should be in the midsummer of his career — is showing a surprisingly autumnal side. Both plays feature the same troupe of actors (including Emily Watson and British theater star Simon Russell Beale) in low-key, measured, umber-toned productions. This approach serves Twelfth Night well, underscoring the comedy’s strains of melancholy and malice. But like Road to Perdition, Mendes’ Vanya is darkly handsome and curiously hollow. Perhaps these hushed affairs are Mendes’ response to the clamor of fame. Night: B Vanya: C+