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!
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
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 TheatreOutOfBounds@gmail.com