By Annie Baker
Review by Chase Vialpando
The Flick, a play written by Annie Baker and premiering at the New York City Playwrights Horizons theater in 2013, follows the workplace relationships between three movie theater employees, Avery, Rose, and Sam. The story takes place in Worchester County in central Massachusetts in The Flick theater, which uses traditional film rather than digital to show its pictures. Sam is a white man in his mid-thirties who still lives with his parents and has quenched aspirations to be more, Rose is a young female projectionist taking a break from college with a seemingly random pace to her life, and Avery is a young, intelligent black man taking a break from college who begins working at the theater in the beginning of the play to kindle his love for film. While it is not always necessary to know the specific aspects of the characters, this work revolves around its characters, as their dialogue and interactions drive the story. Throughout its run, the play delves into the lives of all three. As they become closer and more comfortable, we learn more about the complex lives they lead. Avery reveals his broken home and a dismal past involving personal tragedy. Sam is revealed to have an unrequited love for Rose as well as a complicated relationship with a disabled brother he resents on some level. Rose is shown to have sporadic actions she does not fully understand. The three learn from each other while displaying authentic modern issues many in the world face.
Annie Baker won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for drama with The Flick, as many critics regard it for both its sharp comedy and its keen insight into the relatable problems many people face. Issues such as class, race, gender and existential concerns litter the pages of this play. While some are not fans of its three-hour run time on stage, which is mostly due to lengthy scenes of the characters sweeping or communicating via body language, most critics agree that Baker’s decision to include so much unspoken dialogue creates a natural vision of everyday interactions and believable encounters between the three characters.
While I have not seen the play performed, I still found the script to be an absolute delight. Of course the written-in pauses and actions of the characters added tension throughout, the dialogue was what truly stood out. I found the conversations of the three characters to be immensely authentic, as though I were overhearing coworkers at any minimum wage job. The realizations and experiences shared between Rose, Avery and Sam also proved to be insightful, and often gut-busting. While it often seemed as though they were talking about nothing particularly vital to the story, every plot point added to their characterization, which was the heart of the story. With such a dialogue-driven work, I set the script down feeling as though I knew each of the three main characters well.
Baker spoke with National Public Radio in 2015 about The Flick and revealed that it was inspired by some of her own workplace interactions in her 20s and 30s. Baker also explained that time and duration between dialogue was an aspect she was particularly interested in when writing The Flick. She describes that she wanted the play to feel epic, which may explain its length, and that it all added to the climax of the story, and the profound realizations to which her characters were led.