Miami University’s “The Flick” Is the Stuff Dreams are Made Of

Review by Shawn Maus of The Flick: Miami University Theatre

A flickering beam of light from the projector hypnotizes our eyes. The setting is a dingy Worchester County, Massachusetts movie theatre; a superbly, faithful replica of a dumpy movie house (seats, aisles, projection booth et al) by scenic designer Laura Schorsch.  The seats of the movie house are facing us as if we are the movie screen. The place where dreams are made.

The Flick is a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Annie Baker, set in a theatre named “The Flick” that is being updated from analog, celluloid to digital projection.  The offbeat characters, much like the theatre itself, have an inner need for connectedness to a past that holds them back and a future that is advancing quicker than technology can keep up.

Avery (Josh George) is in love with the movies and this is his first job. Rose (Kate Herman) is the projectionist, and Sam (Ben Cobb) is a 35-year-old who is still living with his parents. They mop up soda, joke around, and make frustrated overtures to one another. Sexual attractions arise. So does a tense, telling bit of class warfare, over a ticket scam gone awry. There is a small plot, but I won’t spoil it by giving it away. That’s one of the exciting discoveries of this play.

The play is a dramedy set over a few months in a movie theatre.  The Flick explores the longing for things lost and those threatened to be left behind: the analog world, low-wage workers, and people outside the gentrified culture. This production reflects discussions happening now in Greater Cincinnati and the country, as we grapple with issues of inclusion and preserving a sense of place and community.

The dialogue is natural and frank.  It’s richly textured and peppered with a “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game of movie trivia.  The characters are recognizable but not caricatures. The actors bring layers of depth to their characters plights.

Josh George is the epitome of unadorned acting. His performance is worth cherishing. His restraint is admirable. Like the close-ups in movies that need to convey the emotions and inner dialog of the character, Josh George’s understated performance proves more than capable of carrying the weight on Avery’s shoulders.  He brings a lived-in quality to the character that is unforgettable.

As Rose, Kate Herman takes herself seriously.  She has the flirtatious attitude of a sex-pot complete with the teen angst and misunderstanding – you can almost hear the alternative music soundtrack in her head.

Ben Cobb brings a bit of Silent Bob grunge to his performance.  Cobb has a consistent level of zany wit, but brings with him a bit of withdrawal that is not supposed to be comfortable.  Cobb gives a quirky performance that holds interest.

The Flick is “the stuff that dreams are made of”, as Sam Spade says of the infamous Maltese Falcon, which everybody in the film has been after—all to learn that it wasn’t as big a deal as they thought it was. Sam is also kinda referring to a romance that’s just not going to work out with the movie’s femme fatale – or in this case The Flick theatre and its employees.

Miami’s production of The Flick is a thumbs-up!

The Flick runs from September 27-October 1 in the Studio 88 Theatre.