Movies Not Always Magical For Those in ‘The Flick’ (Four Stars)
The Flick (A New England Premiere) Written by Annie Baker; Directed by Shawn LaCount; Presented by Company One and Suffolk University at the Modern Theatre 525 Washington Street, Boston, through 3/15
So much can be said about Company One’s latest venture into realism and the lives of the weary. While I am uncertain about how many folks could leave The Flick with completely dry eyes, I will say that shedding a tear or two will be quite worth the trip to the Modern Theatre in downtown Boston.
Before I start gushing over the acting, I must note that the design was very impressive. The set was so cleverly set up, that I stopped short in confusion as I walked into the theater. From afar, I thought that it was seated ‘in the round’ or perhaps there was a mirror in the middle of the room, reflecting all of the seats to be facing us. What I quickly realized was that the 4th wall was an invisible silver screen, and our real audience was on the other side of about eight or ten rows of what must have been recycled movie theater seats. As the actors are seen ‘watching a movie’ on the screen, you’re secretly wondering if they can see us out there waiting for the story to unfold. They were very good at not letting on, if they did indeed see our grinning (or sometimes shocked or saddened) faces. There is always something so convincing for both performer and viewer about ‘the reality of doing’. Sam and Avery are almost constantly sweeping away popcorn, picking up garbage, and finding small ways to entertain themselves through the monotonous task of cleaning up after every show of the day. The sweeping itself seemed exhausting, let alone the details of their lives outside of a single-room movie theater.
The opening feels a bit like a film opening. There are few words to start, a bit of a slow pace to connect you with the environment, and some awkward banter between two people that hardly know each other, but it’s clear they’re meant to become friends. Avery (played by the stone-faced Peter Anderson) is seemingly the main character. I would argue though, that Sam and Rose are given almost equal depth and all three only reveal a small number of (important!) things about their lives and hearts. It quickly becomes clear that Rose (the fiery Brenna Fitzgerald) decides who jumps and when, but she may not realize the full extent of her power aside from being a strong personality with no makeup, a wardrobe that looks like she fell out of a grunge singer’s laundry basket, and a pretty smile. Sam, played by award winning Suffolk alum Alex Pollock, seems to be so hopelessly in love with Rose, we wonder if Rose really is actually a lesbian, or perhaps it’s something Sam made up to keep Avery planets away from her.
The wonderful thing about this show, is that it doesn’t have to take place in the catacombs of Worcester, where small odd businesses still exist and somehow stay afloat. These folks could be anywhere, because they are a piece of someone we know, or someone inside of us. They suffer from the problems that are quite relatable to today’s American conditions. Facebook drama, school loan debt, middle-aged men living at home with a minimum wage job; all of the incredibly sad and crippling realities that our characters don’t know how to battle have consumed them to the point of stagnancy. We all know a 20-something that had trouble finding their way in college, or struggles to pay bills from a job that has nothing to do with their major. What we almost never get to see though, is when they acknowledge these problems exist for themselves and you wonder about whether happiness can truly exist for the downtrodden.
I myself worked at a movie theater for over 4 years Worcester County, and I can 100% say I knew every person in this show personally… well, what I mean to say is that I knew people exactly like the characters. One might say that it hit home a little too hard at some points, and I left the place feeling a bit depressed, remembering my old friends that are probably still stuck working at the soda machines… taking ticket stubs… becoming more bitter towards the world with each year that passes them by… stuck. But hey, that just means those actors were seriously doing their job, and Ms. Baker’s writing certainly wasn’t based on fiction. And Mr. Pollock was doing almost too good of a job at expressing his helpless frustrations with his life and the people in it.
While each character has their own inner turmoil to worry about, the big picture is that the movie theater they are mindlessly cleaning all day every day, might be sold off to a corporate digital projection theater company. Avery scoffs at the thought, being a purist in film and filmography. Movies are his hobby, his love, and his escape. Being a lover of original reels and the rolling of film on a projector, he makes very passionate arguments for keeping to the tradition of true film making and viewing. We find ourselves rooting for the faceless management to listen and take pity, while Sam couldn’t care either way, so long as he has a job.
I hope I haven’t made you feel as though the entirety of the show was terribly depressing and will leave you feeling hopeless about lower class America. There are laughs, and a lot of them! A good portion of them issued out perfectly when the tension could be cut with a butter knife, (yet another reason why this piece was so realistic and translatable). Though I will say, I did feel that a good portion of the silences could have been shortened (the play ran about 3 hours, and time could’ve been shaved with a little less hesitance). Despite the length, it was still worth it to see 3 people relate to one another in such a remarkable way. Siskel & Ebert would most likely have given The Flick, ‘Two Thumbs Up’. For more info, go to: http://www.companyone.org/Season15/The_Flick/synopsis.shtml