by Monique Carboni
by Julia Polinsky
As written by James Hindman and directed by Christian Borle, Popcorn
Falls is a mile-a-minute silly experiment in loopy absurdity, with some
laughs, some wincing, and the hardest working two-man cast ever.
Welcome to Popcorn Falls, where the forces of commerce and greed
sweep away the character of a town, leaving the townsfolk desperate for
consolation. And money -- it’s always about the money.
In Popcorn Falls, money destroys the town, but money
may also save it. The actual falls, the town’s one tourist attraction and
source of income, have dried up after an Evil Corporate Greedmeister dammed the
water source upstream.
Somehow – never mind the details, they make no sense, nor does
pretty much anything else in Popcorn Falls – somehow, a large grant
offered to the town will save it, but only if the townspeople can put on a play.
In a week. Lacking play, playhouse, sets, costumes, makeup, or any expertise,
the good people of Popcorn Falls rise to the occasion. Or try to.
The dedicated, well intentioned, and bumbling Mayor (Adam Heller)
and his faithful sidekick, Joe the Handyman (Tom Souhrada), determined to save
the town, recruit their energies and the townspeople. Heller and Souhrada also
play all the townspeople, which calls for some pretty quick changes of
character, some successful, some not.
With the help of a few props, Tim Mackabee’s farce-ready and
charmingly shabby set, and lighting by Jeff Croiter, the two actors almost
manage to put on a show. Talk about a play that goes wrong; sabotage,
incompetence, egos and ego-bashing, cats, devils, lonelyhearts and vamps, actor
wannabes and the rest of the tropes about community theater projects plague The
Play About Popcorn Falls.
Heller and Souhrada play all the Poppers? Kernels? The citizens of
Popcorn Falls, which should be a tour-de-force of acting chops, but feels
more like a couple of guys having a ball on stage. As you might imagine, some
of the characters come off fuller than others, and mostly it’s about the broad
“Broad strokes” in this case means things like cliché characters
out of melodrama. You have a an Evil Rich bad guy, whose entrances and exits
come complete with the lights and smoke of Hell. Then, there’s a clueless teen
girl taking selfies during her audition, and an elderly man who apparently has
a heart attack while he’s trying out for the play. The town librarian, of
course, has a zillion cats. That kind of broad strokes.
Heller and Souhrada have to switch roles fast, while re-setting
the set, moving props, and writing locations on the chalkboard that helps the
audience to know where we are. Sometimes, they hit it on the nose; sometimes,
they just can’t keep up. Popcorn Falls has been directed at
Formula 1 speed by Christian Borle, himself an actor of tremendous talent and skill.
He’s left neither audience nor actors with anywhere to rest; with no breathing
spaces, the 75 minutes of Popcorn Falls rush by too quickly.
And yet. The end of the show satisfies, in a
well-I-didn’t-see-that-coming way, as the playwright pulls a theatrical rabbit
out of his hat. Popcorn Falls comes full circle. In the end is
the beginning; the final scene of the play we’re watching is the first scene of
the play that will save the town. It’s all one big happy joke, and it’s fun, if
you like your comedy broad, fast, and furious.
354 W. 45th St (8th-9th)
New York, NY
W, Th, F, Sa at 8; W and Sa at 2; Sun at 3
Tickets $75 and up; rush, when available, $20