Baker’s ‘The Flick’ Is Slow-Motion Torture: Jeremy Gerard

Annie Baker’s new play, “The Flick,” unfolds at a rundown movie theater over a recent summer in central Massachusetts.

The set at New York’s Playwrights Horizons consists of several rows of seats and, above, the projection booth. The owner has resisted the changeover to digital film.

At first, David Zinn’s design was so dingily realistic that I half-expected ticket holders to find themselves seated up there in the midst of the action. That, of course, presumes there was any action.

It’s hard to believe Baker wrote the acclaimed “Circle Mirror Transformation,” as well as a fine adaptation of “Uncle Vanya” seen here last year.

“The Flick” concerns Sam (Matthew Maher), a veteran employee whose duties include sweeping up and tending the concession stand; new hire Avery (Aaron Clifton Moten), an idiot-savant whose genius is playing “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” and Rose (Louisa Krause), recently promoted from sweeper to projectionist.

Sam loves Rose, who’s attracted to Avery, whose social skills are limited to naming the sequence of movies that link, say, Macaulay Culkin to Michael Caine. There’s also the issue of skimming, in which some stubs are not kept and the extra cash is divided among the three of them.

In Jokes

Baker throws in a few movie-geek jokes (the play begins and ends with snippets from famous film scores not by John Williams).

Mostly, there’s slow repetition of mundane tasks -- sweeping up, threading the projector, missing sexual connections -- whose point, I think, is that verisimilitude equals importance.

Baker and director Sam Gold pack more pauses into the evening than a Harold Pinter marathon.

After three-and-a-quarter hours of excruciating tedium, escaping into a miserable winter night felt like liberation.

Through March 31 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 W. 42nd St. Information: +1-212-279-4200; Rating: (No stars)

What the Stars Mean:

*****  Fantastic
****   Excellent
***    Good
**     So-So
*      Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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