“The Flick” Produced by New Century Theatre Company

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Sam Hagen and Tyler Trerise. Photo by John Ulman

Playwright Annie Baker (born in 1981) is young to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2014, but she understands losers, people who through their own mistakes or life’s unfairness are able to do little else but plod along day after day. In this prize-winning play where her lost souls muddle through their dull lives the script also subtly addresses issues of race and class. It’s serious stuff marvelously enhanced with biting humor.

Here two disappointed young men who can’t clean up their own lives work in a seedy Massachusetts movie theatre cleaning up after the popcorn-eating, soda-spilling, and candy- wrapper-tossing patrons have left. Their colleague is a female projectionist who holds a higher status because she runs the 35-millimeter film projector, one of the few still operating in movie houses anywhere in the United States.

As these three carry out their mind-dulling, monotonous work they talk. Avery, the younger guy who has just joined the staff turns out to have an encyclopedic knowledge of film as well as his own secrets. All three are film buffs, but Avery’s extraordinary knowledge amazes Sam and Rose, and leads to friendship. These people, however, lack insight. They may be friends, but it’s a friendship in which they are oblivious to the feelings, longings, and ambitions of the others.
People who are unsure of themselves too often can’t understand others.

This is not a play about plot. It’s an exploration of human personality and relationships, and Director MJ Sieber makes sure those lost souls on stage convey both with subtlety and grace.

Emily Chisholm as Rose combines quirky with needy. In one sad but funny scene, she bewails the fact that she’s “like a nympho and then like a dead fish.” Sam Hagen as Sam is a warm mentor for Avery but his rage at his lot in life bubbles up in heartbreaking fashion when we least expect it.

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Emily Chisholm , Sam Hagen and Tyler Trerise. Photo by John Ulman

Tyler Trerise’s Avery is a lost soul seeking his path, and obsessing over movie history and movie technology. He creates for us the angst of a young man at a bad time in his life, yet the playwright gives us reason to believe that things will get better for him.

This play has been criticized for being too long. Maybe so, but so is the tedium of life, and that’s very much what this is about. And here, the playwright and this production have managed to make it very funny as well as deeply provocative. You’ll walk away with thoughts churning.

Through April 4 at 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Avenue, Seattle, (tickets at WEARENCTC.ORG)

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