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AnnieBaker’s masterful play The Flick is based on a very simple plotline:the lives of three menial laborers. They work in a rundown movie theatre in Massachusettsthat is still showing films using the old reels and projector. The play is setin the rows of seats of the theatre with the projection room above. I needhardly add that the simplicity is deceptive.

Twoof the workers, Sam and Avery, sweep under the seats and mop the floor of thetheatre and we see them doing that almost throughout the three plus hours ofthe performance. The third worker, Rose, is a notch above them because she hasbeen promoted to projectionist. There is a fourth character but his role isrelatively minor.

Fromthis unpromising scenario Baker has crafted a superb play that won the PulitzerPrize for Drama in 2014. Director Mitchell Cushman has produced a delicate,subtle, sensitive, captivating and moving production that amounts to simplyoutstanding theatre.

Thethree workers are slowly, deliberately and with great acuity revealed ascomplex, troubled and deeply human beings who have difficulty establishingmeaningful relations with other people.  

Roseis a woman in search of a relationship or some human contact at least. She hasresorted to astrology and reads details about the relationships of people basedon their zodiac sign. She goes into short, promiscuous affairs and leads alonely life. Amy Keating’s performance as Rose is stellar. She appears jauntywith a devil-may-care attitude and loose clothes but reveals her inner void andsearch for contact. Her attempt at sexual contact with Avery is a disaster andher attempt to reach Sam is just as awful in a thoroughly dramatic scene whereshe yells at him to just get him to turn and look at her.

ColinDoyle gives a nuanced, sensitive and intuitive performance as Sam. He encapsulateshis life when asked by Avery, the college student, what he wants to do when hegrows up. Sam answers that he is grown up. The line garners a laugh (there is alot of laughter during the performance) but the reality is that Sam has reachedthe apogee of his career and he can’t even be promoted to projectionist, a jobthat is about to disappear in any event.

Averyis perhaps the most complex character in the play and here we have aperformance sans pareil by Durae McFarlane. He presents Avery as a slender,awkward, deferential and painfully shy man. But he is very intelligent and amovie aficionado without equal. McFarlane’s portrayal from every body movement,to facial expression to vocal intonation represents the deeply troubled youngman. Avery is depressed to the point of attempting suicide and is unable totrust anyone. Worse than that he seems to exist only as a movie buff who useshis knowledge of film as a faux shield against reality. A superb performance byMcFarlane.

Moviesform the backdrop and are an essential part of the play. Sam and Avery play gamestesting their knowledge of moves. We hear numerous soundtracks in the outstandingaudio system of Crow’s Theatre.

Theset and lighting by Nick Blais are impressive. The set consists of about half adozen rows of theatre seats facing the audience and behind them is the unseenscreen on which movies are shown.  

TheFlick is a subtle,richly-textured play that gives detailed portrayals of its characters. Theatmosphere of being at the movies is created by the physical décor, the musicand lighting with superb success.

DirectorCushman shows his ability to pay attention to the smallest detail and theslightest nuance in his handling of the cast and the result is an outstanding nightat the theatre.

________________TheFlick by Annie Baker in a production by Outside theMarch and Crow’s Theatre continues until November 2, 2019 at the Streetcar CrowsnestTheatre, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M4M 2T1.

October 25, 2019

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