(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/20.)
Arnold Wesker in The Kitchen introduced us to the idea that work was inherently dramatic. This astonishing play by the US playwright Annie Baker is in the same tradition, in that it shows how work can be a way in to exploring human relationships as well as social and ethical issues. I should say straight off that this is a quiet play that slowly unfolds its meaning over three and a quarter hours. By the simple act of not demanding our attention, however, Baker rivetingly compels it.
The two previous Baker plays seen in Britain, The Aliens and Circle, Mirror, Transformation, both dealt with enclosed worlds. In this play, her setting is a small movie house in Massachusetts: the audience is in the position of the screen, confronted by rows of empty seats and a projection booth. The three main characters work in the cinema. Sam is a burly 35-year-old whose job is to clear the debris from the auditorium and supervise the toilets. He is joined this particular summer by Avery, a 20-year-old African American on a break from his studies at a college where his dad teaches semiotics. The third figure in this exquisite triangle is Rose, the projectionist in one of the few cinemas yet to switch to the digital process.