Monday, February 19, 2018

Applause! Applause! Review of Theatre Out Of Bounds' production of The Flick at Studio Theatre Long Island by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Theatre Out Of Bounds' production of The Flick at Studio Theatre Long Island was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 8 (2018) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Flick 
Written by Annie Baker
Directed by Scott Johnston
Stage Manager: Natalie Dzienius
Technical Director: Kevin Bertschi
Studio Theatre Long Island
141 South Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, New York 11757
Reviewed 2/10/18

The Flick debuted Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on March 12. 2013 closing on April 7, 2013. After it won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, it was remounted at the Barrow Street Theatre and played there from May 18, 2015, to its closing on January 10, 2016. The Pulitzer Prize committee stated the play is a "thoughtful drama with well-crafted characters." It is set in a run-down movie palace called The Flick and features three movie ushers, Avery, Sam, and Rose (who also runs the film projector), who do the tedious work necessary to keep the theatre running. Sam and Rose are long-time employees while Avery is just passing through. Annie Baker was also awarded the 2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the 2013 Obie Award for Playwriting for this unusual offering that gives the audience a glimpse into the lives, morality, and loyalties of individuals who they might not ordinarily encounter. In this Theatre Out Of Bounds production of The Flick, the audience is seated on the stage facing the empty seats where all the action of the play takes place. Theatre Out Of Bounds is dedicated to the craft and creation of quality theatrical productions with a focus on edgy, thought-provoking, and relevant conversations.

Sam, who is 35 years old, has worked at The Flick for many years and lives with his parents. He is secretly in love with Rose, who runs the projector and resents the fact she was promoted over him even though he worked there longer. Because Rose has never shown an interest in him, Sam tells Avery, the new employee he is training, that Rose is a lesbian (Not unlike a woman calling a man gay if he rejects her sexual advances). Avery is taking a semester off from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts where he is getting "a free ride" due to his father being a professor there. Rose, on the other hand, has $20,000.00 in student loans. Avery is a shy, lying, depressed young man who would rather watch movies than engage in social interactions. His mother moved to Atlanta a year and a half ago after having reconnected with an old lover from High School on Facebook. He subsequently tried to commit suicide by swallowing a lot of pins and speaks to his therapist regularly. He has serious trust issues and comes across as a bit naive. When Avery confronts Rose about her being a lesbian, she denies it but confesses she's "been with girls a couple of times" but isn't gay. Rose shows an interest in Avery, which makes Sam jealous, and even teaches him how to use the projector, which is something Sam has wanted for a long time. The three workers make $8.25 an hour. Sam and Rose are taking 10% of the ticket stubs and re-selling them distributing the extra proceeds as "Dinner Money." Avery initially refuses to go along with the embezzlement but eventually agrees.

Theatre Out of Bounds promises the work they produce will be thought-provoking and will involve relevant conversations. That is certainly the case with The Flick. Some of the action in this play takes on new meaning given the current #MeToo movement. Rose, an older woman, tries to seduce Avery by engaging in sexually aggressive and inappropriate behavior. Avery rejects her advances and she responds to his rejection saying, "I feel like a fucking idiot now," which prompts him to apologize to her. Not finished with her predatory behavior, she slides up to him while they are watching a movie together and begins giving him "a hand job." Avery is disturbed and totally traumatized by this experience. She recognizes his reaction, stops, and apologizes saying, "I just went for it and you didn't give me the vibe." Given Avery's negative reaction, Rose actually gets angry at her victim saying, "I feel like I molested you or something." Good observation! I joked to those around me in the audience that Rose would not be coming back because she had been arrested for sexual assault and will be spending the next five years in prison. Avery blames himself and apologizes to Rose saying, "I felt I'd just be rather watching a movie." Rose then reveals how "fucked up" she is and how after four months in any relationship, she turns into a dead fish and then fakes it until they break up. Not exactly relevant to her molesting Avery without his consent but I guess she was trying to identify with him by confessing that she has problems too. Avery proceeds to lie to Sam regarding what took place but their friendship is severely damaged as a result of Avery being promoted to Assistant Projectionist and because he shared with Rose the fact that Sam had a retarded brother who was marrying someone similarly situated. Resentful of the lavish ceremony his parents provided for his brother and disappointed with the progress of his own life, Sam says, "The only really happy people here are retards. All the rest are just miserable fucks." 

The Flick movie theatre is sold and becomes The Venue. It goes fully digital and the old staff is kept on but the new owner discovers the embezzlement and, because of a letter in the strongbox, believes Avery is responsible. He asks Rose and Sam to explain the situation and how it was "a tradition" that the workers were doing this but they refused, hanging him out to dry.  Avery is depressed and reflects on the fact that "the truth is you can't trust anybody" and "you shouldn't expect anything or for things to turn out well in the end." He reflects on the fact that the world has disappointed him and that everyone is acting as if they were in a sitcom." Woken up a bit more as a result of these experiences, Avery intends to return to school. Sam and Rose, on the other hand, eventually hook up, and life goes on.

The Flick features an extraordinarily talented cast. Joe Rubino shines as Sam, who may have a hidden desire to be a chef, but finds himself stuck in this low-paying job. He does a fine job portraying a man trapped by his circumstances but trying to find a little happiness where and when he can. Rosbel Franklin succeeds in making Avery a sympathetic character even though he can lie, be untrustworthy, and be non-reciprocal with friends just like everyone else. He describes himself as shitphobic because "other people's shit makes me feel like I want to puke." Callan McDermott brings Rose to life in all her erratic, frazzled, confused daily existence. She made Rose into a convincing sexual predator who may have reasons for her behavior even though those reasons don't excuse her conduct. Finally, John Dzienius makes a stellar appearance as Skylar, the new employee who replaces Avery. He has a strong stage presence and I very much enjoyed his performance. His character's desire to "kiss" the projector appeared to open a new chapter in the continuing soap opera of not only the lives of the workers at The Venue but also of our own lives, with new scenes being written every day! 

Theatre Out Of Bounds will be producing Bug by Tracy Letts (May 18-20) and Hedwig And The Angry Inch by Stephen Trask & John Cameron Mitchell (July 13-21) at Studio Theatre Long Island. For artist inquiries, submission, and other information, you can e-mail

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Applause! Applause! Review of A New Brain at The Gallery Players by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of A New Brain at The Gallery Players was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 8 (2018) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

A New Brain
Music & Lyrics by William Finn
Book by William Finn & James Lapine
Director & Choreographer: Barrie Gelles
Assistant Choreographer: Adrian Rifat
Director of Production: Scott A. Cally
Music Director: Yi-Hsuan Chi
Production Stage Manager: Dominic Cuskern
Lighting Designer: Scott A. Cally
Costume Designer: Hayley Zimmerman
Set Designer: Jason Pointek
Props Designer: Gabrielle Giacomo
The Gallery Players
199 14th Street
Park Slope, New York 11215
Reviewed 2/11/18

A New Brain is a musical written by William Finn shortly after his having successfully undergone surgery to repair an arteriovenous malformation. It contains too many songs (32 numbers), too many scenes, and a particularly unlikeable, neurotic, sarcastic, disagreeable main character. That character, Gordon Michael Schwinn (Jesse Manocherian), is given a second lease on life and says I feel "so much spring within me" but the truth is he is still the same miserable person he always was. He recognizes this at some point and says, "I'm still the same as I was. I still complain. I hope I'm different." But he isn't. His mother, Mimi Schwinn (Anette Michelle Sanders) threw out his books while cleaning his apartment, and when he happened upon them being sold by a Homeless Lady (Laura Cetti) for $2.00 each, instead of being happy he found his books, which held great sentimental value for him, he refused to pay her saying, "I'm not paying for my own books." This gives you an example of what a cheap creep this guy is so the audience doesn't particularly celebrate when he's given the opportunity to continue writing more songs. 

The cast is extremely talented. Anette Michelle Sanders (Mimi) sings a moving rendition of "The Music Still Plays On" and Laura Cetti (Homeless Lady) is equally impressive singing "Change." Samantha Schiffman is very charismatic as the Waitress who reminds us "Calamari" is not a fish even though it is listed as The Fish of the Day on the menu. The standout performer in the show is Jim Roumeles, who is Mr. Bungee, the director, producer, and star of his own children's television show, for whom Gordon writes mediocre songs such as "Frogs Have So Much Spring." I was particularly taken with Mr. Roumeles' frog costume, dance moves, and all the numbers he sang. The big production numbers, which included "Heart & Music," "Time," and "I Feel So Much Spring" were well-produced but there wasn't a song out of the 32 that, upon first hearing, made me say to myself, "I would sure like to buy the CD to hear that number again." That being said, I am certain there are a few gems in there you might like.

A New Brain was first produced Off-Broadway in 1998 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The musical was also presented, after multiple rewrites by Finn and Lapine, as part of the Encores! Off-Center stages concert series at the New York City Center in 2015. The show can now be seen at The Gallery Players through February 18, 2018. Tickets are $25.00 for Adults; $20.00 for Children 12 and under and Senior Citizens. You can purchase them by visiting or by calling OvationTix at 212-352-3101.