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By Annie Baker
Directed by Sam Gold
416 West 42nd St.
New York, NY
Opened March 12, 2013
Reviewed by Larry Litt on March 11, 2013
L-R: Louisa Krause and Aaron Clifton Moten. Photo by Joan Marcus.
When I read that "The Flick," Annie Baker's new play at Playwrights Horizons is three hours long I reckoned anxiously I'd miss dinner. That would put me in a pretty bad mood to see a play. I have to admit I was wrong. Ms Baker kept me amused, entertained and attuned to her three central characters much longer than I would have thought. She's done a masterful job of creating conflicts between ordinary young people living banal lives in a dead end fantasy world.
Like a good Seinfeld episode I was transfixed by the familiarity of ordinary conversations. Sam is a 30-something loser with no foreseeable future except his job as the head movie theater usher of the last "film" theater in Worcester, Mass. Matthew Maher creates him as a pathetic universal shlump, a nebbish who can't do anything right in his life, still living at home wondering if he'll ever get his chance to learn the all powerful movie projector. Mr Maher's body language, shrugs and general sluggishness bring us into the world of "after the show is over" living. His pauses are character driven, he's lost for words.
Avery, played by Aaron Clifton Moten, is the new kid on the team, a college vacation jobber seeking to be around movies and movie lovers so he talk endlessly talk about his beloved films. He's encyclopedic about movies, in fact is the all time winner of the six degrees of separation contest. Yet he too has a pathetic past even though he's only 20. He now lives vicariously through movies. To be young is to suffer. Thank Hollywood for its empathy.
L-R: Matthew Maher and Aaron Clifton Moten. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Though Avery is new to cleaning theaters and making popcorn he's a quick learner. He becomes The Chosen One by Rose, the beautiful current projectionist. Rose played by Louisa Krause is a smart ass, punky girl-woman who knows she's better than her job. Rose's machinations drive Sam to the breaking point. Tension is high in the lowest level of show business. Can these people work together in the dying film theater? Should they be allies or are they natural competitors? Are we glad we're not working there with them? That said, we're in a theater watching people work in a theater. Is this an after party?
Much of Annie Baker's dialogue is cringe humor used by stand up comics to berate themselves as major losers. It's meant to make you shrink in your seat realizing not everyone in the audience is a Wall Streeter. Ms Baker's use of topical vernacular helped keep her play's place and time. I knew I was in the new economy where young people suffer if they don't have some support from home or a network for job opportunities. Her characters are end gaming their lives but with a sense of irony that the rest of us are living and working right along with them. We don't want them to decay further.
Go see "The Flick" if only to hear the spoken language of our times at its best. Yes three hours is a long time to sit. Stretch and sneak in a snack for intermission. But don't leave your seats. The best is yet to come in Act Two. And no matter what, don't leave your garbage under the seats.
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