Theater Review: The Flick

The Flick, More Flame Than Flicker

By Kristin Colaneri

“Film is a series of photographs separated by split seconds of darkness” so adamantly stated by Avery, about the shift of film to digital in the play The Flick, written by Annie Baker and directed by Sam Gold, now playing at the Barrow Street Theatre, off Broadway running currently through January 10th.

The didactic play is uniquely constructed around 3 disparate characters that are working in an old movie theater in a small Massachusetts town.  We watch these characters tediously sweep popcorn off the floor during their staccato-like language back and forth, but what we are really watching is the sweeping away of 35mm to a newer, faster, maybe even less intimate technology.  Both Sam (attendant, played by Danny Wolohan) and Rose (the projector operator, played by Nicole Rodenburg) seem quite nonchalant, even detached from the passage of time and shifting of technology, yet not Avery (the other attendant, played by Dallas’ own John-Michael Lyles).  He is seen as the film connoisseur even hero, while the other’s mere enthusiasts.

The play is really a study of film itself which is so much fun to watch in a live-modern-day theater setting where often in 20th century history the two many times paralleled, even competed for celebrity and audience.  The play is riddled with all sorts of movie trivia, movie language, and movie dialogue.  I believe Ms. Baker actually tosses in the mention of about 50 or more different films from Pulp Fiction to Avatar.  She manages to touch on several directors, Wes Anderson, Tarantino, the Cohen Brothers and even mentions Truffaut for the real film aficionado’s. 

There are a few real scene-stealing, contemplative moments in the play, which remind us of why we go to theatre at all.  One is when Rose asks Sam to look at her after he has just confessed his supposed love for her, she suspects fraud and expression, void of real authenticity, which he unfortunately doesn’t look up at her.  Secondly, when Sam and Avery watch a movie scene on YouTube in the movie theater, nudging us to think about how we currently share a film experience.  And thirdly and probably most importantly, we watch Avery, toward the end, have his big epic moment.  He acts out the whole monologue from Pulp Fiction, Ezekiel 25:17, ‘the path of the righteous man…’ (even if somewhat over-dramatized in an underwhelming context). 

Transitionally through the play, Ms. Baker makes a very interesting choice in terms of device… she flips the film light projection into the audience asking us to wonder what the camera does, where the camera is, what is truth and what is fiction.  We are confronted to think about entertainment or art in general, whether it is to numb, to escape, to empower, or whether it has the capacity to awaken us.      

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