Theater Camp doesn’t pack up enough laughs

Sat. July 22, 2023 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

Theater Camp is a new feature spilling over into summer after being released in January at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It is a collaborative effort between directors Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman with co-writers Ben Platt and Noah Galvin that was based on a 2020 short film. Maybe there were too many cooks in the kitchen with this endeavor as some wisecracks don't rise to the occasion and are half-baked.

It's not a total recipe for disaster though, there are several performers that are clearly a triple threat. Disaster does strike at AdirondACTS camp right from the jump as the founder Joan Rubinsky, played by Amy Sedaris, slips into a coma. Her son Troy takes over the responsibilities to run the facilities and programs with no knowledge or experience. Actor Jimmy Tatro plays Troy and brings real-life experience to the table from another mockumentary in the past called American Vandal.

He upstages many of the other performers in Theater Camp that are more well-known than the YouTuber.

The happy campers eventually all band together and rise to the occasion to improve this rundown camp in Upstate New York. The movie was shot on location at the former URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, New York.

The cast obviously had a good time filming it and must have been a labor of love for all involved. Platt and Gordon bonded years ago while creating art in various productions.

Bailee Bionick played the young camper Mackenzie and resembles another one of Platt's past musical theater friends Beanie Feldstein, who was also in Booksmart just like Gordon was.

It's a small world after all in this playhouse and it is all who you know.

For example, Molly Gordon and Ayo Edebiri both come from the popular restaurant series The Bear on FX.

There is strong LGBTQ+ representation in this Camp led by the real-life couple of Platt and Galvin. There is also rising star Patti Harrison, who happens to be trans, and out actor Nathan Lee Graham, who recently toured to the Windy City in the musical Hadestown.

For some camp experiences can be triggering accompanied by baggage following general mistreatment and bullying. Thespians that take themselves too seriously are an easy target but when the storyline roamed into poking fun of influencers it was time to pack up and go home.

Theater Camp makes an enjoyable weekend getaway but wouldn't work long-term.

For those that enjoyed a film like Waiting for Guffman or FX's What We Do in the Shadows, this is in the same vein. Glee watchers will feel right at home with Camp even down to some acapella music used in one scene.

The banter throughout this project is a little too subtle and tongue-in-cheek for some tastes. The creators could have achieved better results if the camp factor was turned up more and focused more on the secondary characters.

With major cinematic competition such as a multilayered Mattel doll and an atomic bomb maker exploding on the big screen around the same time, Theater Camp may fare better at home. This Searchlight Pictures project is a lesson in creativity and certainly worth a visit no matter where it is seen.