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2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama Winner: Annie Baker’s The Flick

Annie Baker’s The Flick has won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Here is my review of The Flick.

175anniebakerCitation: “Awarded to “The Flick,” by Annie Baker, a thoughtful drama with well-crafted characters that focuses on three employees of a Massachusetts art-house movie theater, rendering lives rarely seen on the stage.”

Update: Barrow Street Theater plans to produce The Flick in the near future, according to a spokesman for its producer, Scott Rudin, although all details are to be announced. (Buyer and Cellar is running at the theater through the end of August.)

Finalists

Also nominated as finalists in this category were “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence,” by Madeleine George, a cleverly constructed play that uses several historical moments – from the 1800s to the 2010s – to meditate on the technological advancements that bring people together and tear them apart; and “Fun Home,” book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, music by Jeanine Tesori, a poignant musical adaptation of a graphic memoir by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, exploring sexual identity amid complicated family constraints and relationships.

Watson, a member of the Dweeb Team

Watson, a member of the Dweeb Team, in The Curious Case of the (Watson) Intelligence, Pulitzer finalist

 

Noah Hinsdale, Griffin Birney, and Sydney Lucas

Noah Hinsdale, Griffin Birney, and Sydney Lucas in Fun Home, Pulitzer finalist

 

My mixed reaction to The Flick is evident in this excerpt from my review:

Those who have seen the previous gently-paced, meticulous, near miraculous collaborations between playwright Annie Baker and director Sam Gold — “Circle Mirror Transformation,” “The Aliens,” their adaptation of “Uncle Vanya” – may be similarly entranced by “The Flick,” which has now opened at Playwrights Horizons, focusing on three employees of a run-down movie theater in Worcester County, Massachusetts. The cast is exceptional, and the play is just as quietly breathtaking as their previous efforts.

But it also runs longer than their other plays, much longer –  since the characters talk about films all the time, I’ll say Heaven’s Gate longer, reaching towards Andy Warhol’s Empire State Building film longer. Ok, not really; it only starts to feel that way.

Baker’s previous plays have all been no more than two hours. “The Flick” is three hours and 15 minutes – 195 minutes (including intermission.) On hearing the length, devotees of their work may think it inconsequential, and the truth is “The Flick” is wonderful in all ways but this one. Even those theatergoers who wind up agreeing that the play should be shortened may not mind much, but to me, the excessive length indicates something of a breakdown – in Baker and Gold’s exquisite sense of timing, even in the bond between these great theater artists and the audience.

Slowly, with painstaking care, we eventually see the three develop over one summer into what could be called a love triangle, although that implies the kind of swirling, romantic action that happens in the movies, not the awkward, unrequited, half-articulated desires and fears that happen among them in this movie theater while they are sweeping up in-between (unseen) movies – interaction that feels so real that it’s nearly painful.

Interspersed with this development is much talk about movies. The characters argue over movies,  and play games about movies, in ways that are hilarious, touching, and even informative. “The Flick” is a play about movie-lovers that theater-lovers can love, if they’re patient enough. (It would have been better an hour shorter, though.)

I am delighted that Annie Baker has won the Pulitzer — though wish it had been for one of her other plays, such as Circle Mirror Transformation.

The Flick was the subject of great controversy — many theatergoers walked out, complaining it was too long, which prompted the artistic director of Playwrights Horizons to write a letter to the theater’s subscribers.

This year’s jury that selected the three finalists and the winner for the Pulitzer for Drama was comprised of:

Jill Dolan, professor, Princeton University (Chair)
David Auburn, playwright, New York, NY
Karen D’Souza, theater critic, San Jose Mercury News/Bay Area Newspaper Group
Dominic P. Papatola, theater critic, St. Paul Pioneer Press
Alexis Soloski, drama critic, Village Voice, New York, NY

Previous winners of the Pulitzer Prize in Drama:

2013: Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar
2012: Water By the Spoonful by Quiara Alegria Hudes
2011: Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris
2010: Next to Normal by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey
2009: Ruined, by Lynn Nottage
2008: August: Osage County, by Tracy Letts
2007: Rabbit Hole, by David Lindsay-Abaire
2006: No award
2004-05: Doubt, by John Patrick Shanley
2003-04: I Am My Own Wife, by Doug Wright
2002-03: Anna in the Tropics, by Nilo Cruz
2001-02: Topdog/Underdog, by Suzan-Lori Parks
2000-01: Proof, by David Auburn
1999-00: Dinner with Friends, by Donald Margulies
1998-99: Wit, by Margaret Edson
1997-98: How I Learned To Drive, by Paula Vogel
1996-97: No award
1995-96: Rent, by Jonathan Larson
1994-95: The Young Man From Atlanta, by Horton Foote
1993 94: Three Tall Women, by Edward Albee
1992-93: Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, by Tony Kushner
1991-92: The Kentucky Cycle, by Robert Schenkkan
1990-91: Lost in Yonkers, by Neil Simon
1989-90: The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson
1988-89: The Heidi Chronicles, by Wendy Wasserstein
1987 88: Driving Miss Daisy, by Alfred Uhry
1986-87: Fences, by August Wilson
1985-86: No award
1984-85: Sunday in the Park With George, by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim
1983-84: Glengarry Glen Ross, by David Mamet
1982-83: ‘night, Mother, by Marsha Norman
1981 82: A Soldier’s Play, by Charles Fuller
1980-81: Crimes of the Heart, by Beth Henley
1979-80: Talley’s Folly, by Lanford Wilson
1978-79: Buried Child, by Sam Shepard
1977-78: The Gin Game, by D.L. Coburn
1976-77: The Shadow Box, by Michael Cristofer
1975-76: A Chorus Line, by Michael Bennett, James Kirkwood, Nicholas Dante, Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban
1974-75: Seascape, by Edward Albee
1973 74: No award
1972-73: That Championship Season, by Jason Miller
1971-72: No award
1970-71: The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, by Paul Zindel
1969-70: No Place To Be Somebody, by Charles Gordone
1968-69: The Great White Hope, by Howard Sackler
1967-68: No award
1966 67: A Delicate Balance, by Edward Albee
1965-66: No award
1964 65: The Subject Was Roses, by Frank D. Gilroy
1963-64: No award
1962-63: No award
1961-62: How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, by Abe Burrows and Frank Loesser
1960-61: All the Way Home, by Tad Mosel
1959-60: Fiorello!, by Jerome Weidman, George Abbott, Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock
1958-59: J.B., by Archibald MacLeish
1957-58: Look Homeward, Angel, by Ketti Frings
1956-57: Long Day’s Journey Into Night, by Eugene O’Neill
1955-56: The Diary of Anne Frank, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
1954-55: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams
1953-54: The Teahouse of the August Moon, by John Patrick
1952-53: Picnic, by William Inge
1951-52: The Shrike, by Joseph Kramm
1950-51: No award
1949-50: South Pacific, by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan
1948-49: Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller
1947-48: A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams
1946-47: No award
1945-46: State of the Union, by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
1944-45: Harvey, by Mary Chase
1943-44: No award
1942-43: The Skin of Our Teeth, by Thornton Wilder
1941-42: No award
1940-41: There Shall Be No Night, by Robert E. Sherwood
1939-40: The Time of Your Life, by William Saroyan
1938-39: Abe Lincoln in Illinois, by Robert E. Sherwood
1937-38: Our Town, by Thornton Wilder
1936-37: You Can’t Take It With You, by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
1935-36: Idiot’s Delight, by Robert E. Sherwood
1934-35: The Old Maid, by Zoe Akins
1933-34: Men in White, by Sidney Kingsley
1932-33: Both Your Houses, by Maxwell Anderson
1931-32: Of Thee I Sing, by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin
1930-31: Alison’s House, by Susan Glaspell
1929-30: The Green Pastures, by Marc Connelly
1928-29: Street Scene, by Elmer Rice
1927-28: Strange Interlude, by Eugene O’Neill
1926-27: In Abraham’s Bosom, by Paul Green
1925-26: Craig’s Wife, by George Kelly
1924-25: They Knew What They Wanted, by Sidney Howard
1923-24: Hell-Bent fer Heaven, by Hatcher Hughes
1922-23: Icebound, by Owen Davis
1921-22: Anna Christie, by Eugene O’Neill
1920-21: Miss Lulu Bett, by Zona Gale
1919-20: Beyond the Horizon, by Eugene O’Neill
1918-19: No award
1917-18: Why Marry?, by Jesse Lynch Williams
1916-17: No award

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About New York Theater
Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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