“The Flick” – Stray Cat Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ September 23, 2013


Stray Cat Theatre, Tempe Performing Arts Center
Tempe, AZ

Stray Cat Theatre is staging the first production of playwright Annie Baker’s newest work, “The Flick,” right after its successful off-Broadway run.  The three-hour play is a dialogue among three employees of a small, single screen Massachusetts movie theater.  The play explores how easily people can mess up their lives by making things too complicated.  But the play’s intolerable length causes huge downtime stretches when the characters jabber adnauseam as they reflect on their miserable lives. 

There’s no problem with the Stray Cat Theatre’s superbly acted production performed by a winsome ensemble that each bring the weird characters to vibrant life.  And Ron May’s sensitive staging brings out all Baker’s single-minded play says about listless lives.  The play desperately needs a sharply focused edit, though, as it plods on too long to relate such a simple story.

The tiny second-run movie theater is a statement itself.  It’s one of the last places in the country where movies are shown using a projector.  In this real theater, the three employees trudge through life.  Thirty-five-year-old Sam has no life as he cleans the theater between showings.  As “The Flick” opens, Sam is training new hire Avery, a student who knows and loves films.  The pair spars with projectionist Rose.  Details of the characters misunderstandings about life would destroy the play’s purpose.

May directs the local production with the lethargy playwright Baker has written into it.  Perhaps May should have taken a bit of artistic license and edited the play implying the laggardly pacing without making it so tediously slow.  His actors craft each character with impeccable clarity from Louis Farber’s Sam who telescopes his indecisiveness and meandering approach to life artfully.  He brings astonishment to his character when he realizes that Avery knows cinematic history.  Micah Jondel DeShazer is a hesitant but thoughtful Avery who never flaunts his cinematic expertise but let’s us share his insecurities.  Courtney Weir brings multi-faceted directness to Rose, who has a baggage of hang-ups and is the play’s most atypical character.

“The Flick” says much about weird people who populate the real world, but the play meanders as it makes its points over and over.  It continues through October 5.  For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-227-1766 or order tickets online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: C