Glacial pace notwithstanding, there’s a lot to be said for “The Flick” at Playwrights Horizons. Sam Gold’s production of playwright Annie Baker’s latest effort has a likeable plot with clever flourishes, offbeat characters and excellent acting. Its downfall is that both playwright and director have mistakenly confused realistic with real, resulting in a theatrical experience that’s true to life but deadly in its lack of momentum.
Baker and Gold meticulously detail the workaday exploits of Sam (Matthew Maher) and new recruit Avery (Aaron Clifton Moten) as they clean up between shows at the Flick, a single-screen movie house in Massachusetts. Sometimes joined by projectionist Rose (Louisa Krause), they reveal themselves haltingly. The play’s truth is unassailable, but real life in real time can be a real drag. Sam desperately pines for Rose, who in turn is drawn to Avery. Avery, who attempted suicide a year ago, hesitates but ultimately joins Sam and Rose as they skim the theater take every night for “meal money.” And Rose learns that the theater is about to be sold.
“The Flick” picks up in the second act, but the overall pace makes “The Three Sisters” look like it’s on speed. The plot here achieves an emotional crescendo as Avery, subtly played by Moten with an almost flat affect, reaches out to his co-workers, only to be shot down. But it’s too little too late. The purposeful monotony preceding it deflates its impact.