This review is part of our coverage of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
The Pitch: “You have to know that only 3% of people make it. The rest end up in a mental institution—or in a go-go box in Hell’s Kitchen.” Welcome to AdirondactS, an intimate theater camp where such wisdom is imparted to young actors. Over the summer, we’ll see the details of theater camp in a mockumentary-style film sharply directed by Nick Lieberman and Molly Gordon (both making their directorial debuts).
First framed as a documentary about Adirondacts founder Joan (Amy Sedaris), things start to go awry when she falls into a coma — a result of “the first bye bye birdie-related injury in Passaic County history” — and former campers behind. Best friends and devoted instructors Amos (Ben Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon) pick up the pieces, while Joan’s messy son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) does his best to keep things afloat.
Rounding out AdirondaCTS are Clive (Nathan Lee Graham) as our dance instructor, Janet (Ayo Edebiri) for stage combat, Gigi (Owen Thiele) for costume design, and Glenn (Noah Galvin) for walking technique. And as if that weren’t enough, we’re graced by Alan Kim as an aspiring agent and a perfect performance by the ever-welcome Patti Harrison as an opportunistic investor hoping to integrate Adirondacts into a flashier camp nearby.
Count Me In: First and foremost, the joy of Theater Camp lies in its absolutely perfect detail. The screenplay, co-written by Platt, Gordon, Galvin and Lieberman, is laughable, funny, full of hyper-specific details that would send chills down anyone who could recognize the names Interlochen, Stagedoor Manor or Frenchwoods. It’s a film that could only be written by a group of people who know what the stakes can be for most local productions: it’s funny not because it’s rude or overdone, but because it’s all so absolutely true .
“Let’s throw in some spices,” directs Amos von Platt, a teenager working on a scene. “A little bit of cinnamon, a little bit of pain, a little bit of stepdad.” Later, while working with the same camper, he commented that he “don’t really feel how the IBS affects the character in detail.” It’s perfect.
Because I Met You, I Changed (For Good): In real life, the stars Platt and Gordon actually grew up together, which adds another layer of believability to the story (the footage of the two in Fiddler on the Roof and How to Succeed Being in business without really trying as a kid is authentic indeed). Their relationship and intimacy is the axis on which the glittering story revolves, and two great performances are produced as a result.