Alfred Hitchcock famously derided a certain style of movies as “pictures of people talking.” The master director/auteur would probably appreciate the cinematic sensibilities of Annie Baker’s The Flick, now receiving its local premiere courtesy of The REP, Point Park University’s professional company. The winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for drama tells its tale with few words, lengthy naturalistic but meaningful pauses, and completely silent mime-like scenes in which much of the action is mostly suggested.
Essentially a three-character story set in a deteriorating moviehouse (named “The Flick”) in Worcester, Mass., the play portrays the interpersonal dynamics of the ushers in various combinations in short scenes spanning months in 2012. Behind the “fourth wall,” a.k.a. the movie screen, the audience shares their secrets, revelations, betrayals, recriminations and humor. It’s not an easy task to pull off, but Robert A. Miller directs — nay, choreographs — a perfectly chosen cast, assisted by an excellent design/tech team.
John Steffenauer embodies the hulking Sam, the senior usher and superannuated slacker unhappy with how his life is turning out. Although he physically towers over everyone else, Steffenauer shrinks into the introverted Sam during his many moments of insecurity, though he does stand tall for an instance of anger, and even heroism.
The youngest and newest member of the team, Avery, is a total film geek, a savant at “six degrees of separation.” Saladin White II conveys the character’s fragility and confusion, and occasional bursts of strengths. His blackness is only one of many sources of dissonance with the others.
While Sam and Avery argue that the admonition “be yourself” presents an unsolvable puzzle, the vivacious Rose warns that the others cannot know who she really is. Sarah Silk packs this powerhouse with energy sizzling off the stage. Her Rose is a sympathetic enigma. Andy Kirtland completes the cast as two different people imposing upon the ushers’ world.
At three-plus hours, The Flick is not for every taste. But its pokes at identity, self-knowledge and philosophical possibilities will inspire even more hours of post-play discussion.