POST: 'The Flick' - So. Many. Extended. Pauses.
What's it about?
The Flick is about three employees of a down-trodden movie theatre called The Flick somewhere in Massachusetts. Much of the story takes place in between showings of movies at their theatre, as Sam and Avery sweep popcorn off the theatre floor. The employees are all at varying points in life: Avery is a 20-year-old film buff currently taking a break from college, Sam is a 35-year-old man who hasn’t quite gotten his bearings together, and Rose, in her early 20s, is struggling with student debt and millennial apathy. Throughout the play the three share their frustrations and disappointments about life with each other.
What did I experience?
Lately, I’ve been thinking about theatre and how audiences interact with the activities of the stage. What is the role of an audience member watching a performance, if not voyeur? On Saturday, as soon as The Flick began, I felt like I’d found an answer to my question.
The theatre went completely dark and then a projector housed high up on the stage shot out dancing beams of light at the audience. Thanks to the was the set was constructed, audience members at The Flick (the play) were then turned into characters in a film playing at The Flick (the movie theatre). This emulated the projection of film in theatres, but as there was no screen for the light to fall and display images on, it fell on the audience, sweeping us up into some imaginary movie in which the characters watch a play set in an empty theatre hall. While I can’t say that my interpretation of the projector as an incorporation of the audience into the play was intended by the play’s writers, I can say I really appreciated feeling like I was part of the show.
I took note of how I felt with the projector lights on me and then, as the actors began saying their lines, I took…a nap.
I couldn’t help it! It wasn’t a very long nap – more like resting my eyes, really. The play just had. So. Many. Extended. Pauses. In between exchanging dialogue and sweeping popcorn, the characters just stood in prolonged silence. While I get that good performances are true to life and in life there are many silences, at 8pm on a Saturday night after a long week, I kind of just wanted a reprieve from the uncomfortable silences of life. It certainly didn’t help that my view of the stage from the mezzanine was through steel bars...
Around an hour and 45 minutes into the play, I was a little more awake, however. Avery and Rose had just had their first scene without Sam and things had gotten serious. Things had gotten interesting enough to stay awake. Rose had confessed to liking Avery (contrary to Sam telling Avery that she was lesbian). A handjob had been attempted (it’s one way to make your feelings known). Suicide had been discussed (Avery considers it often, Rose is too curious about her future to consider it).
But then the theatre went dark again. I thought, good, it’s over, ended on a high note, I’m awake. I went out to the lobby, anticipating the feelings of the cool fall air on my face. Then I remembered that the run time of the show was 3 hours and 10 minutes. This was just intermission. Oh my god.
I went back into the theatre. As the show started again I noticed that there were several patches of empty seats throughout the theatre. I guess I wasn’t the only one who mistook intermission for ending.
But I tried to keep my mind (and eyes) open this time. And you know what? It wasn’t too bad. In the final act, a few important things happen: Sam tells Rose that he loves her, Rose rejects Sam, the theatre is bought by a corporation and Avery is scapegoated and fired for a money-making scheme that Rose and Sam dragged him into. Yes, there were many still many more two-minutes-too-long pauses and yes, there was more popcorn sweeping, but I stayed awake!
So, ok, maybe I've simplified this play too much. It wasn't that I didn't "get" the play. It is indeed a complex play that discusses serious issues that we all face at some point and I was able to see a lot of truth and perspective in the story. But ultimately, it is just way, way too long and I will not be seeing it again anytime soon without a large cup of coffee in hand.