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The Flick ~ Signature Theatre

Jordan Wright
March 15, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times

Thaddeus McCants (Avery) and Evan Casey (Sam) in The Flick. Photo by Margot Schulman

Thaddeus McCants (Avery) and Evan Casey (Sam) in The Flick. Photo by Margot Schulman

Playwright Annie Baker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play is a series of conversations between three movie theater workers.  You know, the silent, near invisible youth who sweep up the spilled popcorn and sticky candy wrappers between showings.  In Baker’s imagining two 20-something young men, Sam played by Evan Casey, and the new hire Avery by Thaddeus McCants form an unlikely friendship.  The third member of this incongruous wheel is Rose (Laura C. Harris), the projectionist, a green-haired, self-absorbed, utterly conflicted lost child who changes the reels in this repertory cinema.  The trio form bonds, sometimes strong, sometimes tenuous, as do most people who work together.  Maybe they’re light-hearted connections and maybe a romance blossoms, as it does here – but they’re just as complex and bittersweet as any other in the known world.

In this absurdist comic drama James Kronzer gives us a simple set – rows of red theater seats and a projection booth facing us, the audience, all the better to focus on the evolving relationships.  As the men push their brooms and mops through the aisles, perfecting their technique, they begin to form a friendship of shared labor and mutual loathing of the theater’s owner, Steve, interrupted only by Rose, who Sam is obsessed with.  To keep Avery at bay he tells him Rose is a lesbian and introduces him to their scam of robbing the till for “dinner money”.  “It’s a tradition,” they insist.

Laura C. Harris (Rose) and Thaddeus McCants (Avery) in The Flick. Photo by Margot Schulman

Laura C. Harris (Rose) and Thaddeus McCants (Avery) in The Flick. Photo by Margot Schulman

Avery, a terminally shy college student between semesters, is a film geek with relationship issues.  Little by little Sam begins to pull him out of his shell, by playing to his strengths – primarily his ability to connect movie stars through the game of six degrees of separation to which Avery is a near autistic savant.  The young men bond over their love of 35mm film and their loathing of digital film.  “I think the phrase digital film is an oxymoron,” Avery contends, drawing on Steven Spielberg’s continued use of 35mm film to make his argument.

Ultimately Steve sells the theater to a hard-nosed businessman who plans to go digital.  At this point the new owner believes Avery (who is black) has been robbing the till, a scam Sam and Rose instituted and insisted Avery go along with.  When they turn on him as a college elite to take the fall, Avery goes ballistic.

Director Joe Calarco divides the vignettes with sweeping sound track endings of the greatest known classic flicks – putting punctuation to each scene and affording us the time to reflect on the nuances of the unfolding relationships.  It takes riveting performances by an excellent cast to pull off three hours of conversation.  So settle in, sans popcorn, for an honest depiction of the curious art of the mundane.

Through April 24th at Signature Theatre (Shirlington Village), 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets and information call 703 820-9771 or visit www.sigtheatre.org.

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