Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Meticulous "The Flick" inaugurates New Century Theatre Company at 12AA

Emily Chisholm, Sam Hagen, Tyler Trerise in The Flick (John Ulman)

The Flick
New Century Theatre Company
Through April 4, 2015

New Century Theatre Company’s inaugural production in their new space at 12th Avenue Arts Center includes all the kinds of elements that they emphasize: there is an emphasis on atmospherics (the play, The Flick, is about a movie theater crew, so there must be popcorn – both in the lobby and on the floor!), and a meticulously produced play.

A tight cast of basically three people (there is a tiny and well done fourth role) slowly unfold their personal quirks and traits as they get to know each other while doing their jobs at a movie theater called The Flick. During clean-up times, when screenings are over, we’re introduced to Rose (Emily Chisholm) – a green-haired, hip hop, streetwise, assertive and self-assured projectionist; Sam (Sam Hagen) – a guy whose life seems destined to stay low-level jobs like cleaning movie theaters; and Avery (Tyler Trerise) – the college student with college professor father whose future can clearly be brighter than either of the other two.
 
Sam feels hurt that Rose has worked there less time and has already been promoted to a position he craves. He’s also secretly in love with her. Rose is oblivious to Sam’s attraction, and has a certain amount of unfocused ambition for the future. Avery has more options than the others and he’s working there mostly because he’s a major movie buff. He loves 35mm film and hates the idea that digital projectors are taking over the movie theater landscape.

Annie Baker’s play won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize. The reasoning of the Pulitzer Committee is strange and unfathomable sometimes, and maybe in this case. While Baker is a past-master at realistic dialogue (the play is very contemporary and she includes all the “you know… like…like” type idiosyncratic speech of youth these days), this play is relatively small in scope.

We can like all the characters and understand them probably better than they can themselves. The only large plot element of any importance is telegraphed from the beginning: Avery is African-American and Rose and Sam inform him of a slightly illegal skimming scheme that is a “historic” employee extra and coerce him into complying. We all have to know that it’s not going to go well for the young African-American. The choice of controversy is a bit disappointing as a plot device.

The execution of the production, however, is flawless. MJ Sieber’s direction kept the pacing quick and seamless with momentary scene changes. The run-down movie house with the deteriorating lights and the projection booth pointing toward a movie screen behind the audience (by Andrea Bryn Bush and Andrew D. Smith) felt like it had been installed for years. Sound design by Evan Mosher and Robertson Witmer was full of movie minutiae and kept you guessing which movie you were hearing. Spare costuming, including t-shirts with insignia, by Kimberley Korf, was understated and completely believable.

But the stars were the three cast members. (Spencer Hamp provided the brief fourth role.) Emily Chisholm was pitch perfect as the brash and sassy Rose. She’s called upon to dance with abandon as she entices Avery to let go after work, and it felt as private as it would be with no audience watching.

Sam Hagen does some of the most nuanced work he has had a chance to do. He’s a talented actor who handles the pathos of the character with a sure performance. Tyler Trerise was smart but humble, self-assured and desperate, by turns. Having seen him, recently, in a number of different roles, I can encourage you to keep an eye out to delight in his work in the future.

While the story is a bit slight, unless you are also crazy about movies, it’s a very entertaining evening because of the smartness of the production. The dialogue is terrifically done, and it doesn’t hurt to pay attention to those people backstage, behind the scenes, between movie showings, making beds while we work or play, cleaning windows, etc. They have dreams, too.

For more information, go to www.wearenctc.org or call (206) 661-8223.