Watching "The Flick" in many ways reminded me of the way I felt when I first watched the film "Cinema Paradiso." That film, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, is in essence a love letter to the film industry. Like the protagonist in the film, playwright Annie Baker spent many hours as a kid haunting the small town cinema in Western Massachusetts where she grew up, absorbing the essence of good cinema and of good story telling. She has translated that love for story telling to the stage. "The Flick" is rife with allusions to movies - great and small. Its three principle characters not only work at "The Flick," a down-at-the-heels single screen movie theater, but they also share a fascination and love-hate relationship with film.
Ms. Baker is known as a playwright who often weaves prolonged episodes of silence into the fabric of her plays. She has sometimes been criticized for this trait, but I tend to see her periods of silence as a gift and as an invitation. The gift is a time for quiet reflection. The invitation is permission to notice things that are happening that are not tied to dialogue, a chance to listen to the voice within my head. An invitation to ask questions. "What is being said through non-verbal means? Who are these people and what should I notice about them? In what way are they aware of each other?"
The opening of the play serves as an example. Two male characters, Sam and Avery, enter the empty movie theater with brooms and dustpans. They sweep the theater, row by row, in near silence. They do it mechanically and robotically. Having been forewarned to expect period of silence, I asked myself the following questions: "Who are these people beside humble employees of a movie theater? These kinds of people are not usually 'featured' in a play, so what is interesting about them that the playwright would choose to tell their story?"
It soon becomes clear that Sam is the veteran employee showing Avery, the new kid on the block, the ropes of how to clean the theater after a showing. Sam is helpful in his own way, proscribed by the almost Aspergers-like affect that has him parceling out words one by one as if from a sticky Pez dispenser. Avery is painfully shy. The dynamic changes as Sam throws out an unlikely pairing in a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and Avery responds with confidence and alacrity that verges on the ability of a savant.
We meet Rose, the third key person in this triangle that is anything but "Right" or "Equilateral." Just as Sam is almost, but not quite autistic, Rose is almost, but not quite Goth. Her green hair and loose-fitting black shirt barely hide what could be a very attractive femininity. She has been promoted - ahead of Sam - to the coveted role of projectionist in a theater that is holding out against the rising tide of digital projection and still boasts a traditional 35MM projector. Sam's resentment at having been snubbed plays a key role in the relationships that will develop among the three employees.
Under the very fine direction of Shawn LaCount, the trio of actors create fully realized and memorable versions of San, Avery and Rose.
- Alex Pollock uses a backwards Red Sox cap as a tribal totem and as a fig leaf to hide the nakedness of his scalp and rawness of his emotions. One alternately wants to either hug him or shake him.
- Brenna Fitzgerald is marvelous as Rose. She claims to be "over movies," but the falsity of her apparent nonchalance about her job is revealed when the security of her job is threatened when an ethical crisis assails the threesome.
- Peter Andersen uses his black frame glasses, nervous tics and gestures to establish an Avery for whom we care and about whom we are worried. His vulnerability is palpable.
- Steven Chueka does a fine job in his two brief cameos as "Dreaming Man" and Skylar, the replacement employee.
|Alex Pollock as Sam|
Peter Andersen as Avery
Brenna Fitzgerald as Rose
Directed by Shawn LaCount
February 20 – March 15, 2014
Presented with Suffolk University at the Modern Theatre
– New York Times