ben platt and molly gordon in theater camp
(Searchlight Pictures)

‘Theater Camp’s Comedy Comes From Genuine Love

4/5 lighting issues.

Being a theatre kid isn’t really something that leaves you. When you think that you’re free from the binds of William Shakespeare or the grip that Uta Hagen’s teachings had on you, think again. The new film Theater Camp, directed by Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman, brings to life the feeling of embracing theatre in your life and a look at those who try way too hard to hold onto the idea of what theatre means to them. Every theatre kid is represented in the film, whether you’re a techie, a musically inclined performer, or just a straight play person.

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What works so well about the Gordon/Liberman project is that it is relatable, especially for those of us who dedicated our lives to the stage. The mockumentary follows Rebecca-Diane (Gordon) through her friendship with Amos Klobuchar (Ben Platt) as they return to theater camp while the camp in question is in danger of closing. Both Rebecca-Diane and Amos are too lost in their own self-worth despite the fact that Amos has given up on following his dreams because he choked in an audition. If anything, Theater Camp is a cautionary tale.

Why be an Amos, who chokes and then gives up, or a Rebecca-Diane, who gives up due to being less of a leader and more of a follower, when you can still be that bright-eyed theatre kid? This is what’s really at the heart of this very sweet, albeit niche movie exploring the oddities of theatre kids while not mocking them and their love for the art. It would have been so easy for a movie like this to poke fun at theatre and the people who love it, but you can tell in every fiber of its being that this movie was created by theatre people.

Finding your place

ben platt and molly gordon in theater camp
(Searchlight Pictures)

What is beautiful about Theater Camp comes from its humor and love for theatre. Troy Rubinsky (Jimmy Tatro) takes over the camp when his mother, Joan (Amy Sedaris), falls ill. She’s the one who orchestrated the documentary about the camp that explains the movie’s mockumentary style, and Troy doesn’t know a thing about theatre, but he is willing to learn. That’s something that Theater Camp, as a whole, nails. Theatre isn’t about who is the most talented; it’s about finding your community, and that’s what Theater Camp highlights behind its humor and outrageous ideas for a production of Cats.

Again, it isn’t making fun of us. When you have a movie where the main character looks at a child and tells her that she’s talented but instructs her to not act like it, it’s funny. But it is truthful to theatre, the theatre community, and why we love the art form. As a performance theatre major, there have been many times in my life when I did not want to be branded as a “theatre” kid, but the more I grew to love acting and theatre, the movie I wore that badge proudly.

Theater Camp makes that feeling come to life. You’re proud to be a theatre kid here.

(featured image: Searchlight Pictures)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.