Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Flick by Annie Baker

The Flick doesn't refer to a particular movie, it refers to film in a projector, which is still photographs intercut with dark frames.  From light to dark to light. That is the flick. The theater audience sits facing the house of a cinema. That's the stage. Above the cinema seats is the projection booth. A movie is projected into the theater audience, flickers, changes of light, stirring music.

This play won the Pulitzer, it's at the Dorfman at the National which they have turned into this massive open-air bar. The South Bank was really humming on Friday night as we settled down to the play. A lot has been written about it, but I want to send my own love letter.

This play is a slow burn. The three main characters, the staff of a suburban Massachusetts movie theater are Sam, Avery and Rose. They're drawn so perfectly by Ms Baker and acted so carefully by the actorines (copyright Callie Kimball) that they are still with me, on Wednesday afternoon. The play is mesmerizing. It's more effort to watch than a series of explosions or a car chase or a mutant fly, because the slightest veering of attention means you miss the unfolding of the rich unspoken drama. And it's rich unspoken drama of cleaning up Subway sandwich lettuce from the floor of a movie theatre. Or the way Sam won't make eye contact with Rose. Or the way Avery sits hunched over, speaking to his shrink long distance in what has to be the best monologue in a contemporary play since Jerusalem.

A play about the way we love movies is just the thing right now if you ask me. Avery loves movies - and in an astonishing monologue recounts a dream where entrance to heaven is contingent on finding the one movie that expresses your life and love.  The love for movies somehow crowds out real life though. Sam loves Rose, but Rose points out it has nothing to do with her. He loves this idea of her, he doesn't know her.  His Rose is not real. Just as if she was in a movie. Avery loves film and protests their cinema - The Flick - changing to digital. We see the change at the end. There is no flick anymore, just the cool blue-white light of the pixels, a laser constantly over our heads, a light like a star. It's far less complicated. And far less full of the true dark and light of being a human and therefore of love. Is film more real than digital?

Yesterday was the crappiest day. I was biking around all day in the rain trying to do a million things including shopping for clothes - gah! - for Thursday night when my play is on. I picked up my daughter from school and we rode to the Junction to pick up more flyers. As we approached the Junction, we biked over the cobblestones while singing Bicycle Built For Two really slowly like a dirge. This allows us to hear the vibrations. Our voices being moved by the tires over the cobblestones. It's hilarious. All of a sudden I was really happy, and not at all suffering over how many people will be at the play. I was in a moment with a person and we were enjoying a simple thing together, a small consipracy, a connection. Some fun goddamnit.  Suddenly a joyful triumphant feeling.

In the movie The Flick these three characters commit a very low level crime. Class war decides which one takes the fall. But at the very end, at the last moment, when it seems the play will end dark, it isn't dark. There is a small conspiracy. That small conspiracy, the final forty-five seconds of the play gave me that vast, joyful triumphant feeling.  Was it relief? Truth? True dark and light?

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