“Theater Camp” Mockumentary is a Pleasant Lark with Low Stakes

Packing for Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman’s vision of Theater Camp (B) may involve contraband supplies such as throat coat (for maintaining those satin vocals) or the occasional tear stick (because crying on cue takes real range), but mostly the characters in this mockumentary come equipped for the summer with dry wit. Fresh from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, this comic lark written by the co-directors along with actors Ben Platt and Noah Galvin, showcases faculty and budding performers at the fictional New York State ”AdirondACTS” sleep-away camp. After the program’s indomitable founder (Amy Sedaris) falls into a coma, her clueless “crypto bro” son (Jimmy Tatro) is tasked with keeping the thespian enclave solvent while long-suffering teachers played by Platt and Gordon (both believable in their bickering) endeavor to ensure the end-of-summer musical show must go on. There are some fantastic quips and acts of acerbic comedy, largely featuring Tatro’s character’s basic misunderstanding of the theatre kids. Galvin shines when explaining the rituals of the bohemian Rent kids versus the finger-snapping Fosse friends. Ayo Edebiri is also a supporting VIP as a counselor who lied on her resume but still has to muster up classes on mask theory and fight choreography. There are plenty of sassy sight gags, biting observations and creative asides to reward those who work in the performing arts milieu; tricking kids into being restaurant servers by convincing them it’s an exercise in immersive theater is one of the standout sequences. Other times the tone is too slight to have much bite. The saggy middle act rallies in the finale though, when a show-within-a-show comes brilliantly together. The movie’s creators are clearly caught up in the craft, and it’s all just campy enough to yield a few bonfires of hilarity.

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