BWW Review: THE FLICK illuminates the ordinary at Warehouse Theatre

Photo: Escobar Photography
Photo credit: Escobar Photography

You've no doubt witnessed the moment, maybe even without realizing it: the movie is over, the end credits finish, the house lights come up, and a couple of people roll in a big trash can so they can start sweeping up that popcorn you dropped on the floor. You don't really pay any attention. You breeze right past the big trash can, out of the auditorium and on with your life.

But what about those two guys sweeping the floor? They've got hopes and dreams and messy problems and complicated backstories, just like you.

And they are the focus of the The Flick, now playing at The Warehouse Theatre. Annie Baker's Pulitzer Prize winning comedy introduces us to Sam (Sean Meehan), a veteran employee of a rundown movie theater somewhere in Massachusetts, and Avery (Stephen Brown), a new guy just starting the decidedly unglamorous job. We watch them repetitively sweep, mop, and, sometimes, talk as they slowly find out more about each other - and the seemingly aloof projectionist, Rose (Julia Christgau) - in-between screenings. Movies are discussed, spills are cleaned up, and messy lives are lived. As one character says, "This kind of thing happens in movie theaters."

As Sam, Sean Meehan creates a devastatingly believable portrait of a stuck-in-a-dead-end-job kind of guy. He loves the Red Sox, and he loves movies, and he knows how to clean the floor. And, maybe, he is all-too-aware that those are his defining traits. Meehan brings a friendly quirkiness to the role, down to some broom techniques that physically tell us Sam's been at this way too long.

Stephen Brown has a quiet, otherworldly seriousness as Avery, the movie-loving new employee. Avery is inwardly focused and intense, but he's obviously got a lot inside of him that he has trouble letting out. Brown gives a wonderfully controlled performance that's particularly effective in his understated reactions.

Julia Christgau rounds out the trio as the free-spirited, green-haired Rose. She is physically and metaphorically above Sam and Avery, inhabiting the confines of the projection booth. Even when she comes down to the auditorium to waste a few minutes with the guys she remains somehow above them, a mystery to be unreeled. Earthy and unpredictable, Rose has a magnetic personality and Christgau is terrific in the role.

Director Jess Chayes shapes a great cast and creative team to bring the show to life. The sometimes long pauses are handled well - long enough to be uncomfortable but never excruciating - and the characters ring very true. Brandon Roak's set is simply marvelous, a detailed recreation of a decrepit movie theater auditorium. We, as an audience, sit where the movie screen would be, looking out at the rows of seats and the windowed wall that houses the projector. I dare you to look at the disgustingly filthy air vents in the stained drop ceiling. Tony Penna's lights also perfectly reflect the setting, moving from projector light to the auditorium's house lights. Big credit, too, goes to sound designer Marc Gwinn for his atmospheric background that will have you guessing what video games are in the movie theater's lobby.

One of the play's most striking aspects is how seemingly ordinary it is. These characters could be people we know. This movie theater could be one we've been in. The dialogue isn't all clever wordplay and snappy comebacks; it's much more, well, ordinary. But those elements are also exactly what make the play extraordinary. It's detailed and pointed and perfectly crafted to reflect the mundane work accomplished by bored workers. And, as with so much art, within the specificity of detail lies much universal truth. We've all got our go-to movie references inside of us, ready to pop out at the right provocation, even if it's not Pulp Fiction's Ezekiel 25:17 speech.

Film, one character says, is light and shadow. The Flick manages to illuminate both.

The Flick runs through March 24 at The Warehouse Theatre in Greenville, SC. For tickets, showtimes, and additional information call the box office at 864-235-6948 or visit Please note The Flick contains adult language and situations.

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From This Author Neil Shurley

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