Written by Annie Baker
Samuel French, 2014
Drama, 118 pages
"And the answer to every terrible situation always seems to be like, Be Yourself, but I have no idea what that fucking means. Who's Myself? Apparently there's some like amazing awesome person deep down inside of me or something? I have no idea who that guy is. I'm always faking it. And it looks to me like everyone else is faking it too." Avery
The Flick by Annie Baker won the 2014 Pulitizer Prize for drama. With only three key characters and a unit set, The Flick manages at once to be repetitive and ground breaking with subtle-yet-provocative references to race and mental illness. Above all, the characters felt real. I was drawn in by their stories even if I did not like them and, most importantly, I felt empathy for them.
Initially, the dialogue in The Flick feels rather staccato. Sentences are short and not graceful. I felt as if I could have been a fly on the wall in any rundown movie theater watching slice-of-life action, and there was a truth to the speech patterns of the characters, especially because of the inclusion of non-sequiturs. This made long passages, frequently from Avery and, in one scene, from Sam, all the more powerful, and the heightened language reached felt intense and well-earned. It made me realize that everyone has beauty inside of them, and the moments that the inner beauty came out were incredible.
One of the aspects of The Flick which most interested me was the projection booth. I'm quite interested in the concept of silence on stage, and the fact that we can only see (but not hear) what happens in the booth really had me curious to see a production. Likewise, there were several long passages of stage directions. For example, the bottom of page 89 to the top of page 91 was a fully silent sequence with the loading of the projector, the beginning of a movie (which, admittedly, we might have been able to hear part of), and a failed romantic hookup. At one point it actually states, "They watch the movie for about forty-five seconds." Considering we cannot see the movie, and can only watch them watch it, this feels like a long time. However, so much goes on in the silences that I felt they were full moments, and I think the play would have suffered without their inclusion.
The other aspect that really grabbed me also had to do with the stage directions. Baker often wrote them as suggestions. "He probably does it himself while she watches and provides instructions" (89). "Same gets weird" (32). "It may or may not be decipherable" (27). While Baker gets her point across, the suggestive wording encourages me to use my imagination and help create the play in my mind, getting me more and more involved with the story. I also feel it provides an aspect of freedom to the actors and director, and it is a technique I would consider utilizing in my future work.
While I did not find The Flick to be easily digestible, I did feel it was powerful. It definitely feels fresh and different from a lot of the plays that are on Broadway or that have won the Pulitizer in the past, and Baker is a writer that I will continue to follow. She has a strong voice, and the sense of realness and truth in her writing is something that I value.