Threshold Repertory’s production of the Pulitzer-winning play The Flick follows three underpaid employees at a rundown movie house that is one of the last movie theaters using film at a time when most theaters have already transitioned to digital.
The set is the audience of the movie theater complete with a projection booth. This gives you a disorienting moment when you enter the theater and find your seat, only to find four more rows of seats facing you. A light shines out from the projection booth, and gives you the feeling of looking backwards in a movie theater as the movie is being projected on the screen. The floor of the stage is littered with popcorn, which the actors spend most of the play sweeping up.
There’s little real action in this play; instead, what develops in The Flick are relationships via proximity. When new employee Avery, played by Maurice McPherson, is first trained in the art of cleaning the theater by Sam (Kody Roza), he doesn’t necessarily fit in with Sam and Rose (Kate Tooley).
Avery is 20 years old, depressed, and taking some time off from his free ride at an expensive school. He’s taken this job as a choice because he loves film, and he sees the theater as a bastion of the film-projecting movie theater.
Sam and Rose, on the other hand, have worked there for years and seem to have few other choices. Sam is in his 30s and still lives at home with his parents, while Rose has a crushing amount of college debt and nothing to show for it.
As the play develops, the characters casually reveal intimate things about themselves, as if they are thinking out loud as they go about their work, and something very like friendship occurs. But how authentic are friendships that develop to pass the time at a dead-end job? In this coming-of-age story, each person walks away more aware of their own selfish tendencies and more cautious about what expectations they place on other people.
Roza, McPherson, and Tooley each developed their characters’ own “misfit-edness.” Tooley gives Rose the big, physical false confidence that quietly begs, “Please don’t hurt me.” Making big entrances and exits, Rose tries to cover up her own self-doubt. Roza plays Sam, the 30-something who sees working at a movie theater as his career, with a tightly-bound composure that hints at something below the surface. McPherson’s depressed and anxious Avery, sometimes seemed to be only half there, as if he were disconnecting in an effort of self-preservation. I especially appreciated the moments of sincerity from Avery in his efforts to make connections with those around him.
Charleston audiences interested in contemporary theater shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see this thoughtful drama on the intimate Threshold stage.