Theater Camp

In Films by Samuel Love

Here’s something we don’t see enough of anymore – an improvised comedy mockumentary feature (that’s a mouthful). Long since the heyday of Christopher Guest‘s beloved mockumentaries (including the similar Waiting for Guffman), Theater Camp is something of a throwback – and it sure is refreshing. 

The story is simple. When their beloved leader (Amy Sedaris) falls into a coma – in response to an on-stage strobe light, described as the first Bye Bye Birdie-related injury in the state – the eccentric staff and students of an upstate NY theater camp band together to stage a tribute performance. Complicating matters is their comatose leader’s clueless crypto-bro son (Jimmy Tatro), left in charge while his mother recovers.

Theater Camp succeeds thanks to its hugely talented cast, including the likes of Ben Platt, Noah Galvin, and Molly Gordon (who co-directs with Nick Lieberman). The film is absolutely stuffed with hilarious dialogue – and the jokes are so frequent that you’re almost certainly going to miss some while you’re laughing. Each of the cast are equally memorable and turn their roles instantly into iconic comedy characters, bringing an equal share of the laughs. Feeling like a mix between the aforementioned Guffman and Summer Heights High in its mix between cringe, zany and sweet, Theater Camp is a wonderful feel-good film.

Yes, alongside the laughs is genuine heart. While the film may appear on the surface to be mocking its subject of theatre kids and the pretentiousness of performance, it soon becomes clear that this is more an affectionate, albeit cheeky, tribute. The film is surprisingly poignant, with one of the most genuinely moving climaxes I’ve seen in a comedy film. It’s just so wonderfully inspiring and heartwarming, and yet still remembers to lay on the laughs. 

The endlessly quotable Theater Camp is destined for cult status. It’s a truly wonderful film that I would recommend to anyone.