The Flick at Playwrights Horizons

Monday, March 25, 2013

Playwright Annie Baker talks about her new play “The Flick,” along with Matthew Maher, who stars in it. “The Flick” is set in a run-down movie theater in central Massachusetts, where three underpaid employees mop the floors and attend to one of the last 35 millimeter film projectors in the state. Their tiny battles, and not-so-tiny heartbreaks, more gripping than the lackluster, second-run movies on screen, play out in the empty aisles. “The Flick” is playing through April 7 at Playwrights Horizons’ Mainstage Theater.


Annie Baker and Matthew Maher

Comments [3]


The interview juxtaposes the motifs of "The Flick" with the apparently unplanned ironies of the interview. The main metaphor of the play, how the new inevitably supplants the old, and how the young Avery prefers the old to the new, compares as almost a parody of the artistic banter contained within the podcast.

Annie does not welcome the technical changes in movie projection, like Avery; yet she is herself an agent of disruptive change within modern theater production. It is ironic that in the interview she considers the arrival of the new somehow inferior to the old, in that the new is somehow "cheesier" and by its artifice less satisfying. So says the current protagonist of the new realism. Yet this is exactly the kind of criticism leveled at "reality shows", which her plays are so arduously crafted to resemble.

Her artistic vision remains fiercely and independently unintelligible to the audience: intentionally relying on specific actors, specific sets, and specific voids to communicate conceits that words and plot are designed here to fail at communicating.

The play is about, if it is about anything, an exhibition of these anti-theatrical techniques, and the controversy they stir outside of the performance. The characters and plot are secondary, perhaps even tertiary, features of the play. It is the achievement of CATV verisimilitude, or of occupying a private milieu as the invisible audience, that we are expected to find arousing.

Yet the old tropes appear to spoil the illusion of freshness: such as the one-sided phone conversation we must eavesdrop upon in order receive important character development for Avery. And the funny dance, to help endear us to an otherwise emotionally lifeless Rose. And the reading of horoscopes, a clumsy introduction to the notion of inevitable fate.

No, the inherently structural novelties of the play keep banging up against hackneyed semiotics as it floats about in search of a replacement for narrative. The girl has green hair and wears baggy clothes. How else would we know anything about her? Avery does not dance or do drugs. How else would we be able to differentiate him from stereotyped black men? The play is peppered with these.

Apr. 01 2013 01:05 PM
Ted from west new york, nj

I was thrilled to hear from these two artists (and I mean that word) -- the work in The Flick from all the collaborators is mesmerizing. It was one of my favorite plays of the season and, for the matter, the last few seasons. Incredible design and direction! I felt at times as if I were watching a documentary -- the behavior of the characters as embodied by the fine actors was extraordinary. I just wish there was more talk during the interview about the relationship among Avery (who I assumed to be mixed race) and the other two main characters. There is a slight hint of a kind of racism that Avery seems to be a victim of and the others seem to be oblivious to. Also, sadly, there was no mention of the fourth actor who plays two smaller roles and is quite marvelous in both. I love that Annie Baker is becoming a voice for her generation just as Odets, Miller, Williams, Albee, Shepard, Guare, both Lanford and August Wilson and many, many others did before her. It seems it's finally time to hear from the women who write plays. Hooray!

Mar. 25 2013 09:34 PM
art525 from Park Slope

I find it painful to listen to young people who talk in that way where they raise their voices at the end of their sentences, where their sentences end on a high note, making statements that sound like questions. It really sounds so valley girl and it is like nails on a chalk board. ANd on another note lately I have noticed a mannerism that is very grating and that is interviewees who start their every response with So. -ie. WHere were you born? So I was born in Buffalo. WHat did you intend with your novel? So I wanted to blah blah blah.

Mar. 25 2013 01:19 PM

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