“Drama’s vitallest expression is the common day / That arise and set about us,” wrote the 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson — words that would suit as a preamble to many of Annie Baker’s plays. Not that Baker’s work itself is common. Rather, the playwright succeeds in isolating a kind of wild, often hilarious tension in situations that seem confoundingly unremarkable: a series of theater classes in a community center (“Circle Mirror Transformation”); a few social misfits gathering at a picnic table behind a coffee shop (“The Aliens”); a young couple’s visit to a Gettysburg bed-and-breakfast (“John”).
The apotheosis of Baker’s micro-dramatic style can be experienced in “The Flick,” which Signature Theatre is mounting March 1 through April 17 under the direction of Joe Calarco. Featuring Laura C. Harris, Evan Casey, Thaddeus McCants and William Vaughan, the play takes place entirely in the empty auditorium of a Massachusetts movie house, as its skeletal staff cleans up after a showing.
It is a play that takes its own sweet time, and that is all to the good, as it allows Baker to reveal all of the absorbing contours, wrinkles and secrets in the lives of its extraordinary, ordinary characters.
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