(Re)view From The Body: The Flick by Annie Baker directed by Sam Gold
Barrow St. Theatre
I have never had to wiggle my feet and pinch myself as many times as I did that night at Barrow St. Theatre to keep myself awake. The pauses were not Chekovian, which are brilliantly placed in the play to increase the tension. No no no. These were indulgent and sleep inducing. Any tension and anticipation that the very fine actors created was killed by, really my theatre partner counted , 30 second pauses at times. Between lines.
The anger I was experiencing, this is after all a view from the body, comes from the fact that the actors created deep and complex characters, and the writing was good, sometimes quite poetic. But the pauses suffocated both the acting and the words. I have heard that Ms. Baker wrote these pauses into the script, so maybe this was not a director’s choice. But it was a choice that was conceptual and not particularly mindful of an audience. Maybe some theatre doesn’t need an audience? Maybe some work should just be done quietly in ones garage.
I happened to be in Toulouse on a panel about realism in American Theatre this spring and Julie Vatain-Corfdir (Universite Paris-Sorbonne) spoke about the Flick as the epitome of realism in play-writing; real time. It was likened to Oklahoma theatre doing all the ah’s and uh’s. When is “real” too real? When is “real” just a cute concept that ends up being boring. I can see good drama in the subway and not spend money to wait around for the next line.
On a more positive note, I loved getting a physical glimpse into a slice of humanity from the inside, which we did get to see; inside the movie theatre and the people that clean up the pop corn. I broke off with a guy because he left his popcorn scattered all over the floor, to be cleaned up by someone else. I thought. Who wants to be with someone so shortsighted? I had a private conversation in my head with that guy…..during the pauses.
The three characters were each well embodied, with subtle layering. When an unexpected impulse happened , it had already been hovering. For example when the girl jumped on the guy and started kissing him. You could see that pounce hovering in her second chakra for awhile. She was a cat on a tree limb ready to pounce. Good layered acting always makes me hum.
In conclusion, between the pinching and the humming, I had a physical experience at the Flick a year ago. I am sure, if you have seen the play, your experience was different, and maybe your movie memories were nudged into consciousness and maybe you stayed engaged during the pauses.
Let me know. I am interested.