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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Margin Notes: The Flick

Matthew Maher as Sam. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The Flick

Seen on: Sunday, 5/10/15.
My grade: B+. Not my type of play, but truly excellent at what it does.

Plot and Background
The various misadventures of three employees at a single screen crumbling movie theater in Worcester County, Massachusetts. A floor perpetually littered with popcorn and soda cups, and three humans struggling to overcome their own internal blocks in communication. Originally produced at Playwrights Horizons last year, The Flick won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. That production, cast intact, has transferred to the Barrow Street Theatre.

What I Knew Beforehand
I've read a number of Annie Baker plays, but hadn't seen any yet. I knew that this one was rather controversial in its run at Playwrights Horizons because of its many many pauses and resulting long running time.

Thoughts:

Play: As I've said before, I generally prefer shows with actual plots, which this doesn't really have. BUT, if you go in knowing that, I think you won't be disappointed. The play is as much about its three misfit characters as it is about the relic of the theater, one of the last bastions of 33mm projectors against the rising tide of digital, and the struggle of people on the fringe of life to feel like they matter. The play was well-constructed in terms of character development and revelation, and if not hopeful at its core, at least it had a sense of humor about it. Sam Gold directed this play perfectly - everyone talks about the pauses, but they weren't just voids of sound or space - there wasn't an empty moment. If no one was speaking, there was action; if there was neither action nor word,  it was still with a specific purpose.

Cast: The cast, who all traveled with the show from its run at Playwrights Horizons, is perfectly matched for Baker's dry writing - even Matthew Maher as Sam, who often gets cast in clownish roles by Hollywood, does a fine subtle job with his role, mixing vulnerable outburst with a healthy dose of defensive reticence. Louisa Krause is great as the disenchanted young Rose, not really sure who she is, but positive who she's not - her pauses (among the many in this play) are about her struggle to find even one word to adequately express anything she feels beyond the mundane. And her dance break was epic. Aaron Clifton Moten as Avery, recovering from (spoiler) and almost certainly on emotion-dampening antidepressants, poignantly portrays the college student's struggles to maintain a healthy equilibrium, socialize, while also protecting his extremely fragile core - as he says, everything he's ever cared about has been taken away from him.

Design: David Zinn's set was perfectly crafted - one of those old single-screen movie houses gone to seed - waterstained ceilings, seats stiff with old messes, and a floor that seemed to grow spilled popcorn like weeds, or rabbits. Jane Cox's lighting combined traditional theater lamps with the onstage light fixtures, working or no, as well as liberal use of the film projector with not-quite-discernible content (yes, I tried. don't judge me). Bray Poor's sound came into play chiefly when the projector was running - end of film credits, some familiar (Avengers shoutout!), some less so.

***

Running: Now playing at Barrow Street Theatre - Opening: May 18, 2015. Closing: August 30, 2015
Category: straight play
Length: 3 hours, 15 minutes, including intermission.

Creative Team

Playwright: Annie Baker
Director: Sam Gold
Designers: David Zinn (Set & Costume), Jane Cox (Lighting), Bray Poor (Sound).
Cast: Alex Hanna, Louisa Krause, Matthew Maher, Aaron Clifton Moten.

Aaron Clifton Moten and Matthew Maher as Avery and Sam.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

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