After being completely blown away by the amazing Laurie Metcalf on Broadway, seeing a play produced by Steppehnwolf Theatre was a natural choice. I consider it lucky, when one arrives in a new city, and it welcomes the newcomer with nothing more nothing less but a theatre week.
With more than 100 shows on offer at a reduced price, Chicago had a lot to offer. It even has its own Broadway. But, as a piece of a personal advice, go to the actual New York Broadway to see a Broadway production, if you have a chance. Why settle for the second best, when Chicago theatre community has a lot to offer anyway.
Being a theatre student myself, I knew about Steppenwolf long before going to Chicago. One of North America’s most famous theatre companies, it has given the world such great actors as Joan Allen, John Malkovich, Jeff Perry and, of course, the above mentioned Laurie Metcalf.
The Flick is a big play about small people. Written by Annie Baker and directed by Dexter Bullard, The Flick tells us the story of Sam (played by Danny McCarthy), Rose (played by Caroline Neff) and Avery (played by Travis Turner), who all work as ushers in an old run-down small town Massachusetts movie theatre that still shows movies on 35mm film. Sam is a thirty-something guy who has no big life ambitions. He gets by with whatever he’s got. He is in love with Rose, but too insecure about himself to tell her. Rose, who has been recently promoted (over Sam) to the position of projector operator, an easy going girl who cares about nothing and nobody. Avery is a twenty-something college student who has just started working in the cinema. Unlike his workmates, Avery is a cinema connoisseur, he can link any actor to another actor by creating a chain of films and people they’ve worked with. Avery took up this job solemnly because he is fascinated with the old moving theaters that are still showing pictures on 35 mm film. Avery is a person that could’ve been a genius, a cinema prodigy, had he not been the awkward depressed small town drop out, fighting with anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
The whole play is being staged around Sam and Avery talking while cleaning the cinema auditoriums after screenings. The beautifully built set was designed in a such a way that, be it a real cinema, the audience would be the big screen and the actors on stage – the audience. There was also a second floor (the projector room), which was used by the actors from time to time. A very unusual and quite intriguing technique that was used here: the upstairs room was completely audio isolated from the audience, so we could see the actors but nor hear them.
The Flick is one of those plays that doesn’t feel like a play; it’s more like eavesdropping on somebody’s life. Through what looks like simple dialogues, we witness the big tragedy of an individual, a small person trapped in a big fast changing world. We also become witnesses of the end of an era: the takeover of the world by the digital technology.
In this slowly paced (sometimes, too slowly for my liking) dramatic comedy, the actors beautifully portray their characters. The awkwardness of Avery, the easy-goingness of Rose or the carelessness of Sam: those are all great examples of real life people, easy to understand and to connect to.
This play, presented in the absolutely absence of the theatrical grandeur, wins the audience over by its very naturalistic, close to real life, staging and acting.
The Flick by Steppenwolf Theatre runs until May 8th, 2016. For more info or to book tickets, please, visit: https://www.steppenwolf.org/