The Flick

September 3, 2015

in Plays

Play (2013)
by Annie Baker

Directed by Bridget Kathleen O’Leary

Gloucester Stage Company
Gloucester, MA
August 20 – September 12, 2015

With Melissa Jesser (Rose), Nael Nacer (Sam), Marc Pierre (Avery), James Wechsler (Skylar/Dreaming Man)

Nael Nacer as Sam, Melissa Jesser as Rose in 'The Flick'

Nael Nacer as Sam
Melissa Jesser as Rose
in “The Flick”
Photo: Gary Ng
Courtesy of The Gloucester Stage Company

A first-rate production of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning play about three employees in a run down movie theater in the middle of Massachusetts.

Sam (Nael Nacer), in his mid-thirties, cleans up and does miscellaneous other tasks at The Flick, an old-style movie theater somewhere in Worcester county, Massachusetts. The year is 2012. Avery (Marc Pierre), an African-American college student, twentyish, comes on board and Sam shoes him the ropes, such as they are, about cleaning the theater after shows and other practices, some of them slightly shady. Eventually, Avery also meets Rose (Melissa Jesser) who formerly had been just another employee but now is the projectionist, a step up, promoted by the theater owner, the much talked about but unseen Steve. Quickly, Sam and Avery share their knowledge and love of film, and, gradually, as things develop, the significant complexities among the characters emerge.

The dilapidated setting and the seemingly regular give and take of the superficially routine characters creates a magnificent tapestry of intriguing interplays…

The setting is grim and ordinary – the aisles of a rundown movie theater – but the dialogue, though equally ordinary on the surface, is sneakily engaging. Paced with long pauses throughout, it only grips because it is so down to earth and real while bringing out the inherent elements of drama that develop. Annie Baker does not hold back on any front, allowing her characters to speak freely and without pretense. The dilapidated setting and the seemingly regular give and take of the superficially routine characters creates a magnificent tapestry of intriguing interplays, as lively and vital as the – to us, unseen – films in the theater in which they work.

Marc Pierre as Avery, Melissa Jesser as Rose in 'The Flick'

Marc Pierre as Avery
Melissa Jesser as Rose
in “The Flick”
Photo: Gary Ng
Courtesy of The Gloucester Stage Company

The plot involves seductions, of a sexual sort and of a shadowy financial sort, and abounds in multiple revelations, about self-destructiveness or self-destructive passionate attachments, about professional jealousies, and about betrayals. While in one sense nothing too much appears to happen, one watches this narrow landscape, becomes riveted, and the world begins to spin. The very mundaneness of the setting and the characters provides the dross frame within which these small but astounding dramas occur and it is the contrast of the dim setting and the poignancy of emerging feeling which calls one up short.

Edward Hopper, 'New York Movie' (1939) width=

Edward Hopper, “New York Movie” (1939)
www.edwardhopper.net

There is a lot of movie love and lore dropped in this play, and certainly one who has a feeling for films, especially of the last several decades, will enjoy the romp through that terrain. One of the games that Sam and Avery play throughout is Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which, through a network of pairings of film appearances ties two chosen actors together. (e.g. How to connect David Niven and Richard Gere? David Niven and Shirley MacLaine appear together in Around The World In Eighty Days (1956), Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger appear together in Terms of Endearment (1983), and Debra Winger and Richard Gere appear together in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982).)

Nael Nacer as Sam, Marc Pierre as Avery in 'The Flick'

Nael Nacer as Sam
Marc Pierre as Avery
in “The Flick”
Photo: Gary Ng
Courtesy of The Gloucester Stage Compan

The direction and acting in the production are superb. Director Bridget Kathleen O’Leary has brought out the talents of her starring trio so that each of them shines and they all shine together.

Melissa Jesser, as Rose, has a kind of earthy off-beatness, a gravelly pause in her cadence, and a combination of street-toughness and heart-of-goldness to make her complex relations with Avery and Sam poignant and interesting. Her long dialogue with Sam is particularly jarring and compelling, and her largely quiet listening to Sam’s long declaration eloquently conveys a potent sense of response amidst her few uttered words.

Marc Pierre as Avery has a wonderful twitchy self-consciousness that gradually and convincingly reveals a vivid depth to a character who needs to peel back its layers in stages. Avery is a wonderful film nerd, a cinematic traditionalist, a noble victim of circumstance, and an existential hero, and Pierre does significant justice to all these dimensions. His evocation of the moral dilemmas that emerge when some financial chicanery comes to its head is harsh and striking; Pierre gives his character’s response dignity and depth.

Three Friends Old Movie Poster

Nael Nacer, who is rapidly becoming one of the young luminaries of the Boston stage, gives a command performance as Sam. Among his prodigious other demonstrated talents, it’s amazing that Nacer, a native French speaker, is able to master such a convincing Massachusetts rural accent. With subtlety of gesture and voice, Nacer paints a vivid and tragic sense of a guy who is caught in a web of despairing love and limited opportunities; it is potent and heartbreaking. Through nuance of expression and tone, Nacer conveys a world of meaning in every phrase. His Sam is a contemporary species of tragic hero – bearing elements of nobility and desperation in one armful – and Nacer delivers that combination flawlessly, with a resounding empathic sensitivity.

Nael Nacer, rapidly becoming one of the young luminaries of the Boston stage, gives a command performance as Sam.

The play is fairly short on paper but, with intermission, the show runs to almost three hours because of all the indicated pauses throughout. Though the two acts are long, the quality of the direction and acting is so good that it never drags; the resulting attenuation effectively suggests the vacancies, the deserts in the lives of these characters, and the quiet and drawn landscape against which the flickers and arousals of the movies play. There is a paced poetry to this production which gives Annie Baker’s catchy, funny and down to earth words their anchor and which conveys very persuasively that embrace of vacancy and loss, and the glitterings of hope which occasionally illuminate them.

– BADMan

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: