New Indie Mockumentary Theater Camp Is A Whimsical & Nostalgic Masterpiece

by Julia Berick

Performing arts summer camps have been ripe for documentation for at least the past 20 years, yielding a series of sweet, behind-the-scenes feature films and documentaries about these havens for talented misfits. If Theater Camp doesn’t exactly break character, then it’s a sunny diversion for those of us who’ve aged out of summer vacation.

From debut directors Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman and produced by and starring Ben Platt, the movie is a mockumentary-style record of a summer at a slightly slipshod theater camp in upstate New York called AdirondACTS. After the beloved director falls into a coma, her son—a comically straight financial vlogger—steps in to find the camp close to foreclosure and tries to set it right before he fully understands why it’s worth preserving.It’s through his confused eyes that the audience sees how wonderfully strange—and more importantly, safe—the camp is for the children who attend.

Half-campy comedy, half-earnest paean to difference, the film hits a few false notes, especially when the threat of a neighboring corporate camp looms cartoonishly villainous compared to the unacknowledged legislative threats of the real world and the precarity of trying to nurture kids and teens who have chosen to measure their lives in the adult world of the theater. Still, it’s hard to fault this film about safe spaces for being something of an Eden. Platt always wanted to go to theater camp himself, and it’s a treat to be in the audience for this fantasy.

The film hits theaters today!

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