COHOES, NY – ‘The Flick,’ a play written by Annie Baker, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2014.
The production of the work by Creative License at Cohoes Music Hall indicates that the piece is worthy of such honor. It’s groundbreaking work that modernizes the old kitchen dramas of the 60s and 70s.
These older pieces were about a small, usually dysfunctional family unit, to show how minor injuries within the family dynamic can cause emotional damage. Indeed, it’s possible to see “The Flick” as a family drama for millennials, as it’s an extended and very temporary family unit.
The link between the three characters is the workplace. The play takes place in a dilapidated movie theater in central Massachusetts, which will likely be the last to show 35mm films. The characters have odd jobs. Two cleanings between shows; the other is the projectionist. Between screenings of a film, they gather in groups of two or three.
These scenes offer background information about their lives outside of work.
Most of the time, what audiences connect with is their relationships with each other. Whether it’s the importance of the pecking order that exists even in jobs nowhere, or undivided sexual interests. What you learn is how important work is to an individual’s identity.
That may seem like low stakes, especially when it takes three hours to reveal the obvious. What is considered friendship can often be just a common bond. Very few people will help you bury the body at 2am.
It is open to debate whether it is necessary to tell this story in three hours. I can see 30-40 minutes of cutting with ease. However, “The Flick” is more of a theatrical experience than a typical production of a traditional play. You could say that the rhythms of the piece need so much time to really feel the boredom of desperate lives.
I can say that the play has always held my interest. And, I think a second viewing would be even more satisfying.
The Creative License production under the direction of Aaron Holbritter is excellent at capturing the psyche of people with little hope for the future as they live life day to day. One of the ways these people cope with their lives is through escapist entertainment. These are the people of “The Flick”.
Sam, a 35-year-old loser, and Avery, written as a young African-American, are obsessed with movies. Indeed, there are approximately 48 films referenced in the play either in dialogue or in sound bites between scenes. But do not worry; it only adds to the pleasure for connoisseurs. It doesn’t take anything away from the experience by not knowing the history of cinema.
What hurts, at least on opening night, is the inability to hear all the dialogue. None of the young actors are very experienced and dropping a voice at the end of a sentence, speaking too quietly or turning to the side during an important speech made it difficult to hear some of the dialogue.
This issue will most likely change quickly, as the relationships between the characters will grow closer.
As it stands now, it’s a compelling presentation of a very clever piece that has an almost subliminal impact. What makes the richness of the work is that it remains in the memory.
That said, Creative License production doesn’t always get it right. The actors are all good because they understand their characters and their relationships with each other. However, probably because of the direction, the characters lack the perk that Baker included in the writing.
Creative License tones down the complexity of the play by easing each character into mainstream rather than living on the fringes of proper society.
Although he appears to be under 35, Bill Geltzeiler as Sam captures the nature of a man who is content to live his life as a loser. An added boost to his performance is the energy he brings to a work that would be lamentable without it.
Cailyn Stevens captures Rose’s confidence and skill. She’s not exactly a very nice person, but the production hints, especially through her dress, hair and makeup, that she’s kind of the “girl next door” – even if she isn’t. truly not. In fact, she’s the girl you dread your son coming home with.
Michael Halkitis’ Avery is the most problematic. He is a passive presence as a psychologically disturbed youth. However, in an unemotional work, his telephone conversation with his therapist is quite touching.
Initially, Halkitis does not fully capture the fragile nature of youth, but it improves as the play progresses. However, elements of his cast mitigate much of the racial conflict in the work.
In many ways, it’s an ideal piece for historic Cohoes Music Hall. Besides its intimacy, it reminds the public of the importance of entertainment over the centuries.
“The Flick” continues through Sunday at Cohoes Music Hall. For tickets and schedule information, call (518) 434-0776, visit cohoesmusichall.org