Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon) and Amos (Ben Platt) audition "Theater Camp" students. Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Theater Camp, which premiered Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival, has fun with common stereotypes of the drama community. It's made by theater people, so it's done with love.
A documentary crew follows a summer at Camp AdirondACTS. Founder Joan Rubinsky (Amy Sedaris) falls into a coma during a strobe light mishap, so her son, Troy (Jimmy Tatro), steps in to run things.
Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon) and Amos (Ben Platt) are music theory and acting teachers, respectively. They also write an original play based on Joan's life for the students to perform at the end of camp.
If adults taking casting children in plays way too seriously sounds funny, Theater Camp is comedy gold. This intensity and investment in avant-garde exercises would be insufferable in real life, but Theater Camp strikes the balance of loving mockery and a little bit of belief in the process.
The kids perform scenes from very grown-up plays, and the teachers encourage it. Vocal exercises make up tongue twisters about Al Gore and Wolf Blitzer.
There are some very talented young actors playing the campers, but they don't become characters as distinct as the teachers. Unfortunately with an ensemble this large, Theater Camp doesn't focus on any central students, so the kids must settle for stealing a scene or two.
The teachers have complete arcs as they find their places at camp and in the world outside camp. New teacher Janet (Ayo Edebiri)calls out Rebecca-Diane and Amos's toxic qualities, and the veteran couple do have to confront their codependent relationship by the film's end.
Before her coma, Joan is clear that the camp needs to raise funds for the summer, an annual process. Under Troy, the camp is in default and weeks away from foreclosure, with an investment firm interested in buying the camp to demolish it.
So the play becomes the show the campers must put on to save AdirondACTS. The original music -- written by Gordon, Platt and co-writers Noah Galvin, Nick Lieberman and Mark Sonnenblick -- is genuinely good, as well as being funny. It will make a great soundtrack along with the kids' covers of popular show tunes.
Theater Camp is a lighter entry for Sundance. It offers a palette cleanser from some of the more serious fare, and can serve the same purpose whenever it is released.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.