BWW Review: THE FLICK Explores The Anxieties And Issues Of Working-Class Young Adults
Set in one of the last American cinemas with a 35mm projection system, THE FLICK examines the lives of three employees who are struggling with romantic relationships, finances, family, and themselves. It's a bleak look at life that suggests some interesting perspectives, although a lengthy run time makes for a long, sometimes uncomfortable watch.
That's not to say theatre shouldn't be uncomfortable; THE FLICK deals with subjects like assault, family estrangement, depression, addiction and isolation, and therefore shouldn't be a cheery, bright production. But there are moments where the repetitiveness and monotony of life as a cinema worker make it tempting to emotionally check out. Whether this is an intentional choice by director Mitchell Cushman and meant to really put the audience in the shoes of the characters as they do their repetitive, dead-end jobs or not, there were moments that felt redundant.
Because the play is set inside a theatre, audiences sit in place of the screen and face rows of cinema chairs and the projector, which is in itself a character; always present, always silent, but crucial to the story. The stage holds a perfect recreation of an old movie theatre, and the lighting is simple during scenes but highly effective in the breaks between (set and lighting design by Nick Blais) as the projector comes to life and a stream of light and sound suggests films by the biggest production companies are on the screen.
With a small ensemble and complete focus on characters, it becomes essential for actors to pull off a deep piece like THE FLICK. The clear standout in this production comes in the form of new employee Avery (Durae McFarlane), a 20-year-old film lover taking a year off from school to work in the last 35mm cinema in his area. McFarlane delivers a top-notch performance, balancing Avery's anxieties and quiet demeanor with a subtly sharp sense of humour and encyclopedic knowledge of film. Avery's main co-worker at the theatre is Sam (Colin Doyle), a veteran of the job who takes to Avery quickly. Doyle is realistic and funny, and his chemistry with McFarlane is unmistakeable; the two share several memorable scenes and discussions, including one where an incident in the men's restroom involving a variety of bodily fluids is downright hilarious and somehow, incredibly sweet.
Without a clear antagonist (aside from the unseen theatre owner), Rose (Amy Keating) tends to take on the role. As the crude projectionist with a victim complex, Keating does a great job of making Rose fairly unlikable; it's suggested that bad things have happened to her, but there's no justification in what she does to her coworkers to redeem her in any way. Regardless, the entire cast does a solid job of taking on these complex characters.
THE FLICK has been considered a hit with film lovers, and given the setting alone that makes sense, but the 190-minute production is packed to the brim with movie references that help keep it engaging. McFarlane does a chilling Pulp Fiction impression that makes it seem as if the plot was written with the plan to drop the scene late in the story from the beginning, and the ongoing game of six degrees of separation between Avery and Sam is highly entertaining. The ending is a nice balance of the play's bleakness and unexpected humour but altogether THE FLICK is an intriguing, albeit long, story about average people dealing with everyday life.
Outside the March and Crow's Theatre's THE FLICK runs through November 2 at Streetcar Crowsnest, 345 Carlaw Ave., Toronto, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.crowstheatre.com/whats-on/view-all/the-flick
Photo credit: Dahlia Katz