Movie Review // Theater Camp
Movie Review // Theater Camp

Movie Review // Theater Camp

I saw Theater Camp, directed by Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman, at the Loew’s AMC on the Boston Common and it had the tiny audience roaring with laughter from start to finish. The mockumentary starts by following Joan, the camp director for Adirond-ACTS theater camp, while she scouts perspective campers. She has an unfortunate incident during a Bye Bye Birdie number and is left in a coma. Her influencer-wannabe son, Troy played by Jimmy Tatro, steps up to lead the camp. Troy doesn’t know anything about musical theater. He quickly realizes the camp is in financial trouble with the bank and a rival camp, Camp Lakeside, waiting in the wings to swoop in and take over his mother’s camp. Troy discovers the bank has filed a notice of default and the camp is mere weeks from closing.

The film is filled with amazingly talented child actors. We get to see them do auditions for the camp’s summer performances and they sing, dance, and act better than many adults. So many precocious tweens and teens. The camp staff treat the children like they are mini adult performers. Often saying what seems like cruel yet hilarious comments to them during their auditions, such as “It says you are allergic to polyester…why?” Or bickering over which child can most be perceived as a virgin. At one point Ben Platt’s camp educator character, Amos, says to his companion, Rebecca Diane (played by co-director Molly Gordon) about one of the tweens “I do believe her as a prostitute.” To which Rebecca Diane responds by scolding him “Amos!” He responds by correcting himself “Sorry, sex worker.”

Theater Camp had the audience guffawing in laughter at the absurdity of the situations in which the campers and the counselors find themselves. There’s a hilarious bit near the beginning that anyone who has been to camp will recognize where Troy attempts to get the attention of a room full of campers. He starts by making air horn noises then yells “Listen up squad! Gang? Zip it!” As he grows increasingly more frustrated, Amos stands up and calls “O What a beautiful…!” the children sing back “Morning!” and jump to attention. Rebecca Diane has taken to “channeling” the comatose Joan. At one point Troy asks her if he can speak to his mother and convinces Rebecca Diane to pretend to channel for him. During an acting class, Amos tells the children “Acting is remembering then choosing to forget.” Gigi (played by the delightful Owen Thiele) tells the children “You need to know when to use a clavicle—it’s once a week.” Amos reveals the out of touch way in which he sees himself with the line “I’m a performer, who works full time as an acting teacher.”

Amos and Rebecca Diane, who are very codependent with each other, write a brand-new play every summer, and this year they are writing a play about Joan’s life, called “Joan, Still.” In a stress-inducing turn of events, the play is being written on the fly and still needs a final song which Rebecca Diane says she will write. But she begins to be increasingly absent from her duties which frustrates Amos to no end. Glenn, the technical director (who is played by Noah Galvin) is a secretly talented thespian who hides behind his duties backstage. At one point, he speaks eloquently about acting, saying, “Wanting to learn about stagecraft is an act of nobility.” The actors in this film are believable as the camp staff in ridiculous situations and as the amazingly talented campers. Clive, who is described as “nude for the entire 80’s” is played by the hilarious Nathan Lee Graham. Clive tells the children “You have to know, only 3% of people make it, the rest end up in a mental facility.” Amy Sedaris plays the comatose Joan and while she’s only in the film briefly, her presence is felt throughout the film.

Theater Camp is a beautifully written exploration of camp life that nails what it’s like to be in the woods surrounded by amazing children who expect you to lead them to their dreams. The staff found themselves in increasingly preposterous situations to try to keep the camp open and running smoothly. Anyone who has been to camp or worked at a camp will recognize this funnier version of that world.


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