When I was much younger, growing up in Evanston, I remember thinking there was absolutely no way I would ever live in such a place once my life was my own. It wasn’t that I was unhappy, because I wasn’t, or that Evanston is even remotely horrible, because it’s not. My wanderlust, and the engine of its conviction, was fueled solely and deeply by my youth and the fearlessness that knows nothing of time and its powerful toll. It took me far longer to leave than I imagined and ironically, almost no time to return as I am now raising the family I never knew I’d have in the house I never knew I wanted a mere ve blocks from the house in which I grew up. I left believing what I sought was independence, but the comfort of connection drew me back home.
If what they say is true, and nostalgia is simply a longing for a past we know we can survive, Annie Baker’s beautiful, hysterical and impossibly touching play, The Flick, puts perfectly and permanently to bed the belief that true longing is reserved only for the old. In a run-down movie theater in Massachusetts, three young people struggle to nd meaning and friendship in a world moving too fast for even them, lamenting the so-called progress that understands nothing of their stories nor the way they want them to be told. Over the tedium of their mindless and eternal clean-up shifts, Rose, Sam and Avery forge a tentative and improbable connection. With a shared a ection for old movies and being misunderstood, they create a world of belonging and gentleness, honor and honesty and, for a moment, together, stop the merciless march of time.
The Flick is a play of great structural skill and verbal acuity, certainly: Ms. Baker is a master of character and tone whose understanding of rate and rhythm is unrivaled, but it is also a play of astonishing humanity and compassion. The simple story my generation tells about contemporary American life is that it is the young that push us forward (and essentially drive us down) with their technology and their devices and their endless search for the new; that it is they that are careless, unaware that the march they are on may lead them nowhere, or more to the point, back to where they started and why won’t they just slow down and listen to, well, us? The Flick, with all its considerable humor and pathos, wonders aloud if maybe the grown-ups aren’t really listening and that maybe, just maybe, all that running is not about wanting to leave, but about the fear of being left behind.
Anna D. Shapiro