note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Sheila Barth
‘The Flick’ By Sheila Barth firstname.lastname@example.org Who would think watching two men sweep, mop, and clean movie theater aisles would be entertaining? In Annie Baker’s almost three-hour play, “The Flick,” we not only listen to a conundrum of the cleaning duo’s complaints about theater patrons’ messiness and idiosyncrasies, but we watch their psychologically fractured personalities emerge, little by little.
Baker employs a series of brief scenes, with blackouts and music separating them, to give us a behind-the-scenes, progressively revealing look at three movie theater employees, who each earns $8.25 an hour. Baker punctuates each scene with her characters‘ prolonged pauses, as they struggle verbally, ponder, and carefully weigh their conversations to each other. Company One’s celebrated Artistic Director-Director Shawn LaCount not only fulfills Baker’s instructions, but he makes every minute, silent or surprising, fun to behold.
Yes, “The Flick” can use some cutting, but with this cast and crew, there’s no lag time.
Seated on three sides, the audience faces set designer Cristina Todesco’s movie theater seats. We’re captive - and captivated - voyeurs in these employees’ after-hour antics and their bursts of awkwardness and anxiety.
Thirty-five-year-old Sam is a smoldering mass of nervous energy, who frequently explodes with complaints. He just ended a long-term relationship with his girlfriend and is angry that the boss trained flighty co-worker Rose to run the movie projector instead of him. Being bypassed regardless of Sam’s seniority and requests for training on the projector has bruised Sam’s psyche to the max. It doesn’t make any difference, Rose announces. Steve, indie movie owner, intends to sell the rundown theater, and the new owner is going digital.
But that’s not the only reason for Sam’s dejectedness, which talented actor Alex Pollock reveals through his painstaking pauses, telltale body language and facial expressions
Sam is training new employee, 20-year-old African-American college student Avery on how to clean the theater and operate the concession machines. As the play opens, a movie ends, with sound designer Edward Young’s musical flourishes and Jen Rock’s extinguished houselights, Sam mops and mops, sweeps and swears in one theater section, row after row, while timid, self-conscious Avery moves cautiously, fearful of doing the wrong thing. Peter Andersen’s precise timing and creative expression as Avery is priceless as he reveals his strange, sickening phobia and his uptight, fear of being accused of wrongdoing, citing potential bigotry against him because he’s black. As he gradually loosens up a little, Avery also reveals his obsession with film. He has an uncanny wealth of knowledge about movies, As he and Sam work monotonously, Sam quizzes Avery to pass the time, and is impressed with Avery’s rapid-fire volley of obscure movie facts and details.
A light flashes in the upper projection booth, when Rose shows up for work, hung over. Brenna Fitzgerald is funny and fantastic as the impetuous, sexy projectionist, who rejects Sam’s awkward advances towards her, but relentlessly comes onto Avery. She and Avery are uncomfortably comical as they watch a movie together after hours, and Rose tries to seduce him. His self-conscious, unmoved reaction and her persistence are priceless. Besides breaking out in a rash, Sam announces breaking news about himself, his feelings, his family, and Rose reveals her true colors - sort of. And Avery? He’s the dignified mensch, who leaves a lasting impact on everyone. Steven Chueka rounds out the cast in dual roles as a sleeping patron and new employee, Skylar.
At first glance, “The Flick” appears to be a tongue-in-cheek glance at three misfits, but it’s much more.
BOX INFO: New England premiere of two-act, almost three-hour play, written by Annie Baker, appearing with Company One, in collaboration with Suffolk University, now through March 15 at Suffolk University Modern Theatre, 525 Washington St., Boston. Performances: March 12,13,at 7:30 p.m.; March 14,15, at 8 p.m. Tickets:$20-$38. Visit www.companyone.org.