Theater Camp: Sundance 2023 Film Review

Year: 2023

Runtime: 94 Minutes

Directers: Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman

Writers: Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman, Ben Platt

Stars: Molly Gordon, Ben Platt, Noah Galvin, Jimmy Tatro, Patti Harrison, Ayo Edibiri, Amy Sedaris, Caroline Aaron, Nathan Lee Graham, Owen Thiele, Alan Kim

By Morgan Roberts

For some, theater is life. And for the kids and instructors at AidrondACTS, a theater camp in upstate New York, theater is everything. However, after the camp’s owner and director Joan (Amy Sedaris) falls ill, her son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) is tasked with running the camp. The only problem is that he knows nothing about theater. “Theater Camp” is a mockumentary-style comedy with an outlandish cast of characters which makes for a hilarious and heartwarming film. Much like a Christopher Guest film or previous Sundance film, “Camp,” we are instantly immersed to this very particular world. The biggest sell is how seriously everyone, especially the child actors, are committed to their roles.

The real standouts in this film are Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, and Ben Platt. Galvin plays Glenn who works the tech for all of the summer’s plays. Glenn secretly wants to perform but is crippled by insecurity and self-doubt. A bit of a fly on the wall, Galvin brings so much subtly to his performance. The ways in which Glenn empowers others, there is a softness to him that puts everyone at ease. Glenn also becomes a confident for Troy. Tatro and Galvin play off each other beautifully, speaking two different languages but knowing exactly what the other person is saying. 

Molly Gordon and Ben Platt appear in a still from “Theater Camp” by Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

As best friends Rebecca-Diane and Amos, Gordon and Platt are picture perfect. They get to lean into the stereotypes of former theater kids and theater instructors. Gordon and Platt are childhood friends and we even get the chance to see some home videos. Platt as Amos soars. He plays the uptight, perfectionist and stubborn co-director. He wears his insecurities on his sleeve but hopes that his unwavering love for theater masks them all. Gordon gives a commanding performance as Rebecca-Diane. Rebecca-Diane is the hippie theater camp director who holds séances and teeters on traumatizing children into making them method actors. She loves performance and she loves emotion. There is no moment as iconic as Gordon coming in hot, playing a recorder with a group of kids and then tasking them with singing it back to her. And while Gordon and Platt give great performances on their own, it is when the two friends are working together that it feels magical. Part of the summer theater program has Amos and Rebecca-Diane writing an original musical. The moments we see these two trying to craft the songs is comedy gold. We are also gifted with superb supporting performances from Tatro as Troy who is so out of his element, his presence is amusing. We also have Patti Harrison as Caroline, owner of a rival summer camp and Ayo Edebiri as Janet, the newest camp instructor who has zero theater experience and enough “fake it ’til you make it” attitude to get by. 

And even in the parody of theater directors and summer camp goers, the ensemble brings so much heart to the piece. It is clearly an homage to their time at camp, their directors and acting coaches who brought them to this moment. The people who made them fall in love with theater and keep their dreams alive. There is so much love poured into this film that you cannot help but be endlessly dazzled by it. “Theater Camp” is a hilarious romp and a heartfelt celebration for all current and former theater kids. 

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