PARK CITY, Utah — ‘Theater Camp,’ which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival Saturday, is reminiscent of another comedy that debuted here years ago: ‘Wet Hot American Summer.’
No one’s raging around town with heroin this time – too bad – but what both sleepaway films have in common is that they’re more about the counselors than the kids.
In co-directors Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman’s sweet, wacky, and hilariously funny indie mockumentary—admittedly best suited for people who know who Mr. Mistoffelees is—we ask each of the workers: what are those adults doing there ? As in Clue, everyone has an eccentric motivation.
Running time: 94 minutes. Not yet rated.
Troy (Jimmy Tatro), a TikTok financial bro, was forced to take over the legendary performing arts camp called Ardirond-ACTS because his mother Joan (Amy Sedaris) died after a flashbulb incident at “Bye Bye Birdie.”
Acting teacher Amos (Ben Platt) and music theory director Rebecca-Diane (Gordon) were campers themselves for 11 years and have been advisors — and smothering best friends — for a decade. Amos is incredibly hard on the kids while Rebecca-Diane is obsessed with herself. The thirty-something yearns to be a professional actor, but doesn’t do anything about it. Amos proudly describes himself as “a performer who’s a full-time acting teacher.”
Meanwhile, the introverted Glenn (Noah Galvin, who turns whispers into meals) is the stressed-out technical director, occasionally offering an insightful glimpse of theatrical flair.
And Janet (Ayo Edebiri) just needed a job, so she lied that she was trained in stage fighting and accents and knows next to nothing about theater.
Adirondack-ACTS is something of a crappy stagedoor manor in the Catskills, and they’ve put on three shows in a matter of weeks: Damn Yankees, Cats (immersive!), The Crucible Jr., and an original musical named “Joan Still” that honors the life story of the comatose owner.
Half of the film is devoted to the classes and rehearsals for “Joan Still” – Nathan Lee Graham and Owen Thiele lead the way as choreographers and costume designers, respectively – and the other half concerns the upcoming foreclosure of the camp and the efforts of the more posh Camp Lakeside on their country to buy and demolish the place. Patti Harrison plays the sneaky, flirtatious Lakeside hedge fund executive who tries to woo the formidable Troy.
However, the plot is secondary. Unlike the suspense of Christopher Guest’s Waiting For Guffman mockumentary that inspired Theater Camp, Is Guffman Coming?, this comedy hovers squarely between small moments and big jokes.
Gordon is particularly hilarious as some sort of villainous hippie who demands professionalism and also goes into questionably real trances to channel the dead.
Her anger at a little actress who secretly pretends to cry with a “tear wand” during a scene has the fiery anger of Medea.
Platts Amos is a bit of an idiot but gets a laugh. And I’ve heard rumors that the theater industry has an idiot or six.
Troy comes off as a shallow character at first, but Tatros has a nice, candid moment listening to a song from “June Still” that adds layers to the guy, bruh.
And this ragtag cast of campers — all great budding comedians — show off their Broadway skills in a satisfying grand finale that really works because the song montage is not only silly but pretty catchy.
“Theater Camp” is a film that is very much made – and much appreciated – by people who understand these bizarre, “Brigadoon”-esque summer camps where artistic kids are both open-hearted and openly ruthless. The characters aren’t stereotyped or clichéd, but frighteningly recognizable. I know far too many Rebecca Dianes.
Broadway fans, “Theater Camp” is sure to be coming to a streaming service near you soon.
https://nypost.com/2023/01/22/sundance-review-theater-camp-is-a-gem-for-broadway-geeks/ Theater Camp is a gem for Broadway geeks