by Annie Baker
Directed by Sam Gold
Barrow Street Theatre
(Original The Flick Webpage at Playwrights Horizons)

Reviewed by David Spencer

A Pulitzer Prize-winner of two seasons ago, Annie Baker’s The Flick, which originated at Playwrights Horizons, is back in its original production with its original cast, for a sit-down engagement further downtown, at the Barrow Street Playhouse, until January. Its title refers to an arthouse movie theatre in Massachusetts, one of the very last hold-outs against digital projection in favor of oldschool reel-to-reel style. Its characters are three who maintain the theatre: Rose (Louisa Krause) who runs the projector; Sam (Mathew Maher), the senior clean-up guy (who hopes to run the projector one day), and the new guy. Avery (Aaron Clifton Motes).

            In her minimalist/naturalist style, Ms. Baker is interested in painting big personality portraits with tiny brush strokes, and so The Flick is delivered with determined, demotic detail work, in which, say, a simple conversation about the best way to sweep up after the audience has left, reveals hopes, dreams, depression and the essence of workplace dynamics with the unseen boss. Under the direction of Sam Gold, this is all very well acted, but doled out at a measured—and some would say glacial—pace, like some kind of existentialist tone poem. Including intermission, the progression of many scenes of varying length, clocks in at three hours and ten minutes.

            There’s really no predicting how you’ll react to that. It’s such a deliberate and deliberately hypnotic style choice that you either make a pact with it and take the slow conveyor belt to the destination; or you decide it’s boring, self-indulgent and unnecessary. The night I attended, I made said pact, and for the most part found it an interesting theatrical experiment that was hardly flawless, but mostly held together and proved, in the end, a unique enough conflation of style and substance to be pleasantly memorable. But two who accompanied me to the performance did not, alternately tolerating and dozing through it. (The audience gestalt seems pretty much in the play’s favor, as it would have to be, given its pedigree and commercial foothold, but that also may reflect the concentration of a return engagement crowd who know what they’re getting into).

            Anyway, it very much is what it is. Don’t attend expecting fireworks. This is about the weighty world of minutiae.

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