By Keith Tomasek, Oct.18, 2019
Set in a single-screen, 35mm movie theatre, in an era of multiplexes and digitization, “The Flick” blends the political economy of precarious labour with its characters’ precarious emotional lives.
The theatre’s staff are a trio of misfits who push each other’s limits, yet avoid pushing their own.
Sam, played by Colin Doyle, is in his mid-30s. He suffers from unrequited love and lives with his parents, who are themselves living with credit card debt. His job at the theatre entails cleaning up other people’s messes; he spends more time examining the condition of his workplace than his own life.
The daily dose of disappointment is palpable, and yet Doyle has crafted Sam into a compelling character.
I had a chance to ask Doyle a few questions about his experience working on “The Flick” which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The Toronto production is directed by Mitchell Cushman and produced by Outside the March & Crow’s Theatre.
1) You character Sam is almost perpetually disappointed yet he is a compelling character.
How did you connect with him?
There are many ways in which Sam and I are very different but many ways in which we are the same.
As disappointed as Sam might seem, it’s the hope that I, Colin the actor, and ideally the audience, is rooting for and interested in Sam. I love Sam and his journey. His anger and frustration and the levels in which he experiences them is definitely something I have experienced in my own life. Getting to exercise that in front of the audience is my job (and a lot of fun).
2) What was your first reaction when you received the news you were cast in one of the most hotly anticipated shows in Toronto?
Over the moon.
I LOVE Outside the March and am very closely connected to them since I first was blown away by them and their work with “Mr. Marmalade.” I met with Mitchell and told him how inspired I was by them, their mandate, and their work. Since then, I helped on the producing side of “Passion Play,” was in “Mr. Burns,” and helped workshop “TomorrowLove.”
Mitchell and I had discussions about “The Flick” when we were doing “Mr. Burns” as we were in an old abandoned movie theatre for that show. As I told him (and anyone else who will listen), I read this play in 2014 and, having worked at a movie theatre/video store for most of my twenties from being an usher to a manager, I resonated with this play a lot. It is one of my favourite plays of all time, and to play the role of ‘Sam’ is truly a dream come true.
3) Baker’s scripts are known for including very specific direction about pauses and their duration, with lines like this:
“A happy pause in which they realize they’ve broken the tension and then awkward pause following that happy pause.”
Did Baker’s approach to direction make you feel confined?
It didn’t make me feel confined. We got to talk about and work on just who got those pauses, what they were about, and how long they could be. I love those kinds of discussions.
It also is what makes Ms. Baker’s writing so unique. It is a brilliant road map for an actor’s journey.
4) Baker’s first play “Body Awareness,” drew comparisons from critics who called her a modern-day Chekhov. She’s since adapted “Unlce Vanya.”
You recently performed in “The Cherry Orchard,” did that production prepare you for “The Flick” in any way?
I spent a little time thinking (I had A LOT of lines to learn) about the last time I was at Crow’s, which was last season with “The Cherry Orchard.” Like “The Cherry Orchard,” “The Flick” explores many big themes, all so smartly and delicately.
I understand the comparison as they both explore and portray naturalism, so there is arguably more going on in the subtext of things than on the lines themselves. A great example of this in “The Flick” is a scene where I’m asking Avery about his time with Rose, clearly jealous, but I never say that. Instead, I sweep in silence.
5) Sam and his new coworker Avery spent much of their lives watching the grand emotional gestures that are common in Hollywood cinematic storytelling.
In a unique blend of film and theatre techniques, Baker’s writing zooms in on emotional connections that occur in quiet moments. How would you define the emotional relationship between Sam and Avery?
Great question! One of my acting teachers said that a lot of what we learn as people are from film and tv. Is it the art reflecting life or life reflecting art?
Certainly, when it comes to love and romance and relationships it can get complicated.
I think that the relationship between Sam and Avery starts out as teacher/student and then I think goes to that of brother/brother. I think Sam loves Avery. That’s why when both of the characters betray one another it is SO heartbreaking.
Written by Annie Baker
Directed by Mitchell Cushman
Colin Doyle – Sam
Amy Keating – Rose
Durae McFarlane – Avery
Brendan McMurtry-Howlett – The Dreaming Man / Skylar
Click for showtimes and tickets
– GLENN SUMI, NOW MAGAZINE
Takes unremarkable people and situations and makes them extraordinary.
– MARTIN MORROW, GLOBE AND MAIL
A highly beguiling immersive production.
– CARLY MAGA, TORONTO STAR
It’s not only my most anticipated show of the fall but maybe of the past few years in Toronto.
– CHRISTOPHER HOILE STAGE DOOR
Each of the actors gives stunning, multilayered performances even though Cushman has forbidden any conscious actorliness to ensure that the performances are as natural as possible.