Annie Baker has an amazing knack for presenting the seemingly mundane and revealing something much more beautiful and interesting than we originally thought. And that knack is on full display in her newest work, The Flick, skillfully directed by her frequent collaborator, Sam Gold.
The Flick takes place in a small, single-theater movie theater in Worcester County, Massachusetts. This is a theater that still shows actual films, that is, movies shot and projected on 35mm film, not digital. Theaters like this are a dying breed, a fact some of the workers at the Flick bemoan.
The Flick employees we meet are Sam (Matthew Maher), Avery (Aaron Clifton Moten) and Rose (Louisa Krause). (Alex Hanna also appears briefly in the production as The Dreaming Man and Flick employee Skylar.) Sam is in his mid-thirties, lives at home in his parents’ attic and is the most veteran of the three theater employees we meet. Avery is the newbie, a 20-year-old who is enamored of film and can solve any six-degrees-of-separation challenge you throw at him. Rose, somewhere in her mid- to late-twenties, is the projectionist with green hair. All three love movies.
But while passion for cinema and the film on which it’s shot more or less drives most of the plot, as is typical for Baker (Circle Mirror Transformation, The Aliens, Uncle Vanya; Gold directed all three plays) the play is about characters and the relationships they forge. It’s about loyalty and the decisions we make in order to maintain it (or not). It’s about flipping the script and finding happiness in the life you have, despite what it may look like from the outside.
To wit, at one point Sam says to Avery, “I know my life might seem kind of depressing to you, and you know, in a lot of ways it is,” but there’s beauty in my life - there are good things in my life. Sam, played with wonderful sensitivity by the terrific Maher, knows his life isn’t going to get much better than this - better in terms of position in life, glamour and expanded horizons - but he’s wise enough to appreciate the moments of splendor, the seemingly small stuff that actually enriches his life. (You might say Sam is in the now here this.)
It’s takeaways like that, brought to light slowly but surely (thanks, director Gold!) and in Baker’s signature natural dialogue, that always make Baker’s plays so satisfying. By taking her time to tell the story and allow her characters to blossom, Baker touchingly uncovers universal truths in the most unexpected places.