Despite my instinctual belief that theatre is a community-based activity, I’ve found myself more and more satisfied attending performance by myself. I think it’s mostly because I am forced to have an experience independent of my friends and their opinions. Attending The Flick on a cloudy Sunday afternoon was an especially tasty example of this. It’s not often that I get the pleasure of spending three hours consistently entertained. The Flick was a fiery example of highly contemporary playwriting, inhabited by lively, spontaneous, and keen performances.
As I entered the theatre all by myself, I saw the smiles exchanged, the reunions, and the felt the joy so distinct from the quick and cold streets. Company One always creates a very friendly and inviting lobby environment but don’t seem to embrace the experiential setting. This is fine by me and nicely reveals the simplicity of just going to the theatre. The first encounter with the set was shocking. I had to take a moment to adjust my bearings—first sign that a production will be successful in my book! Open seating led to a spontaneous decision to sit in the back as to observe as much audience reaction as I could. I’d heard a lot of hype about the The Flick and have seen previous Annie Baker plays in Boston, so I was expecting some gasps.
By the second minute of the play, I was hooked. Not a word of dialogue had been spoken but a story had already begun. Two matching polo-shirted men entered the space and I had the clearest picture of the dirty movie theater lobby from whence they came. I have to say that I was sincerely moved by the actors work in The Flick. I admit this because young actors can become obsessive over the success of a performance, and therefore too critical. Beyond this, I was captivated by their characters and completely invested in their journeys. Ease, breath, and stillness were inherent to the execution of this piece and the whole cast did that incredible justice. This also speaks to how generous of a playwright Annie Baker is. Her work gives so much room for sincerity. Her style is one of the most resonant forms of naturalism I’ve witnessed. During the performance of The Flick I was taken off guard multiple times by how much I related to the small moments between characters. Annie Baker is often praised for how accurately she captures the silences that communicate far more than a monologue ever would and that was all over The Flick. Sam and Avery were, to their core, any two of my friends from home that are still there chugging along in a mundane job. Everything keeps piling on top of them but the escape means an emotional journey far bigger than anything they’ve encountered. It’s a familiar place, one we have all been through. This story was most clearly told in the moments that Sam and Avery didn’t have the most obvious conversation and instead kept sweeping.
I was very interested in Company One and Annie Baker bringing the movies to the theatre. Generally, people feel more comfortable at the movies. There is no chance of audience participation and it’s usually much cheaper, so if the experience doesn’t satisfy you, you didn’t have to sacrifice too much. I believe that employing this philosophy at the theatre will entice larger audiences comprised of younger people. People are very connected to the movies and I can only imagine how relatable Avery’s character was to many people in the audience, myself included. He had a distinct passion for the past, a better time, and preservation. His spirit was one we can all deeply connect to as we are forced into expediency. Because of how much time was spent on just three characters, living deeply in their circumstances made me quite deeply care for them.
I know that some of the response to this piece had been largely around its length and how that seemed unnecessary. The director, Shawn LaCount, has stated in interviews that he can’t imagine cutting any of the dialogue from the play. I completely agree with this. There was not a single moment in the play that I felt the plot wasn’t advancing. The dynamics are the characters were shifting and they getting more and more intimate with each other. Had I missed any of their glances or seemingly average conversations, I wouldn’t have been nearly as acquainted with this group of misfits.
Annie Baker does an admirable job of creating the drama of daily activities. The moment that Sam was screaming out Rose’s name to the projection booth was so captivating. She was basically in the same room as them, yet Sam had to yell out with all of his might in attempt to get her attention. I knew in that moment that he loved her and that he’d never told her. The desperation usually exposes itself in plays in moments of very high stakes. There was nothing immediate that Sam needed from Rose in the circumstances—other than, of course, her unwavering attention and affection. I also thought the physical vocabulary between Avery and Rose was unbearably realistic. The minute Rose tried to touch Avery, I wanted to scrunch up in my seat and look away just as much as I hoped Avery relaxed his shoulders and kissed her back. It was complex and reminded me of my life, full of stupid risks and reaching for intimacy.
I think I often leave plays interested in examining one major thing about my life and relationships; how I interact with my mother, or if I’m giving enough attention to my grandpa. I left The Flick contemplating my very existence. Not in a way that forced me to sit down, look at the sky, and shed one single tear, but in the way that I walked out of that play feeling far more present than I did when I entered. I was wondering about how I’ve treated random people in my past and if I was blind to anything they were feeling. I was also tickled with the entertainment of daily life and how much there is to laugh about just walking to the T. The characters in The Flick were living their lives so closely to how I imagine mine that I thought I might just run into them on the street.
Overall, my experience of The Flick was inspiring, thorough, and entertaining. I laughed at myself as much as I laughed at the characters. The whole production was simple—every aspect was serving the words, the stories, and the lost boys and girls of every minimum wage job.