Theater Camp

The actors hit the right notes with laughs and empathy.

There’s a lot of exuberance and laughs in “Theater Camp,” the directorial debuts of Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman. They along with Ben Platt and Noah Galvin co-wrote this film version of their short film, and they direct the film in the style of a 70s film. You may think it takes place in the 70s, as you begin to watch it (or off you haven’t seen the trailers), but I don’t recall the 70s having selfie sticks or gay actors not getting attacked. So, this must take place in the modern times. Probably for the best.

Or let’s say it’s inspired by the comedies of Christopher Guest. Yeah, let’s go with that. And also the fact that the film plays like a mockumentary, as we learn who these characters are, and what their plans are in the story.

The story takes place at the rundown theater camp AdirondACTS located in upstate New York, and begins with the founder Joan Rubinsky (Amy Sedaris) comically ending up in a coma, and her business influencer son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) is left to take charge of the camp, along with teachers and former alumni: Rebecca-Diane (Gordon) and Amos Klobuchar (Platt in a better film role than “Dear Evan Hansen”). This guy looks and acts like an idiot-the kind who would be a perfect alumni on “Real Housewives” of whatever my mom watches.

The camp usually presents a big show by the end of the summer season, and given the circumstances, they decide to make a show dedicated to Joan. The title of the play is “Joan, Still.” That means they need the best auditions and rehearsals to make it a colossal piece of entertainment.

However, Troy finds out that the camp is in financial trouble from a rival camp site representative named Caroline Krauss (Patti Harrison). So he hires a new dance instructor named Janet (Ayo Edebiri) to cover for the ones he had to let out, and tries to keep the foreclosure a secret from the teachers in the meantime. The one person also knows is the tech guy Glenn (Galvin), but fortunately for Troy, he isn’t a snitch and he doesn’t force him to do things for him to keep his mouth shut. But rather, he has the kind of potential to be on stage. Troy sees that in him. Maybe Troy isn’t as dumb as we thought.

There’s also a small issue regarding Rebecca-Diane missing some of the sessions for personal reasons, and Amos trying to make sense out of it. It puts their friendship to the test, and it can be funny or consistent, depending on how these actors use their words.

About 20 minutes of the middle tend to drag on, but mostly “Theater Camp” knows how to satirize the life of stage actors and directors, and the audience and I are laughing at how Gordon, Lieberman, Platt, and Galvin all write the characters with timing and attitude. I like how one of the kids-Alan Park (Alan Kim)-acts like an agent, while the camp’s manager Rita Cohen (Caroline Aaron) tells him to go to his activities. I also like how half the young singers are really good or a little tone deaf. And I like how the film keeps its high spirits alive.

Gordon, Platt, Tatro, and Galvin all have the right behaviors and tones to express their characters, and you like the kid actors for who they can be or who they want to be. Almost everyone has the kind of timing of an independent comedy that I wanted to find in “Asteroid City.” It has its flaws, but it still works as a music comedy with good taste. Or maybe someone of much higher standards than mine sees some bad acting. Everyone’s a critic.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.

Categories: comedy, Music

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