Nicholas Hulstine, Zachary Paul, & Emily Vergason in The Flick. Photo courtesy The Alley Theater.
By Annie Baker
Directed by Kathi E.B. Ellis and Amos Driesbach
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
We have seen plays that dramatize the life of the ordinary citizen; “average” working class people who exist outside of the kind extraordinary events that motivate most dramatic writing, but The Flick luxuriates in the utter mundaneness of its three characters. Yet, in that dogged ordinariness, playwright Annie Baker unearths a wealth of detail and feeling that make her characters fully realized without overwrought melodrama.
Sam (Nicholas Hulstine) and Rose (Emily Vergason) work at a run-down old movie theater in Worcester Massachusetts called The Flick. As the play begins, we watch Sam train a new employee, Avery (Zachary Paul) in how to sweep up spilled popcorn in the aisles. All of the action (it barely qualifies as that) takes place among the seats, and this staging puts the audience in folding chairs on the stage and locates the play in the regular, movie-theater style seating normally occupied by the audience. The reversal of the space is an obvious choice, but extremely effective in providing the appropriate setting on a nearly zero budget.
Baker is known for such small stories in which little happens in the way of plot, and The Flick, which consists of moments before and after the movies are shown, is, quite formally, a reading of life between the lines. It is deliberately paced and played and such understated fashion as to demand audience identification with these people. The big themes of love, jealousy, dysfunctional families and more can all be found in the script, but the key moments of revelation are presented quietly, without histrionics, so that we can easily make sense of things.
Nicholas Hulstine takes full measure of the material in Sam, lending him the weary resignation of a man who has never demanded much of himself, and beautifully capturing the authenticity of the character. Rose is first seen through the window of the projection booth, an aloof and mysterious figure revealed in degrees by the text and Emily Vergason’s solid observation. Zachary Paul is well cast as Avery, using his natural reserve and awkward physicality to very good effect in essaying the troubled character. Spencer Korcz does yeoman work in two small roles, but understands the key nature of his presence in closing the play.
Perhaps theatre goers used to the broader, kitschier fare that is more typical of The Alley Theater schedule in recent years will find that The Flick is not their cup of tea – too slow and lacking in the pop culture kick this company specializes in, but this is the Louisville premiere of a Pulitzer-Prize winning play by one of the most important American playwrights to emerge in the last ten years, and it demands the attention of serious theatre audiences.
May 25 – June 3 2017
Go to Alleytheater.org for exact schedule for each production and tickets.
Tickets $20 ($18 for students / seniors / military)
The Alley Theater
615 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.