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He Says: The Kernels of Popcorn Falls Explode Fast and Furiously Funny at the Davenport

He Says: The Kernels of Popcorn Falls Explode Fast and Furiously Funny at the Davenport

During the frantic operatic opening, two actors quickly move and shuffle around props and set pieces as if the stopwatch was on and their life depended on it. This wildness didn’t really make sense, I wondered to myself; if they wanted this piece to open set up in this manner, couldn’t they have just started it out that way? Why all the manic rearranging? But in that exact moment, Popcorn Falls, wildly and most wonderfully directed with brilliance and bravado by Christian Borle (Encores’ Me and My Girl) had me right where the show wants me, because its smarts exist in that very opening messiness, and that hook is precisely what makes this play by James Hindman (Pete ‘n’ Keely) such a tremendous joy and surprise.

picturedLtoRAdamHellerandTomSouhrada (1)
Adam Heller, Tom Souhrada. All photos by Monique Carboni.

Popcorn Falls is a two actor dream of a play. A love letter to theatre and putting on a show. It takes the whole of the sweet dry town, a collapsing hamlet that the new mayor, played by the incredibly endearing and talented Adam Heller (Acorn Theatre’s A Letter to Harvey Milk) is desperately trying to save, and squashing the parts on top of two gifted and game actors. Really, to be fair, most of the parts are thrust upon Tom Souhrada (York Theatre/New World Stages’ Desperate Measures) who delivers magically, while Heller holds the heart of Popcorn Falls together with his deeply affecting portrayal of a man struggling against his own history and self-worth. Sounds deep, and for a hilarious comedy, it truly is wonderfully detailed and drenched in emotion while never losing its wink and wet nod to the theatre audience, just like the director Borle did in his accomplished Something RottenShakespearean portrayal.

picturedLtoRAdamHellerandTomSouhrada (3)
Adam Heller, Tom Souhrada. All photos by Monique Carboni.

It’s a hectic madcap mashing together of entrances and exits, expertly orchestrated by Borle, with a shirt and a cat sweater (inventive costuming by Joseph La Corte (FX’s ‘Fosse/Verdon‘) masking and sculpting various town-folk before our very eyes with seemingly ease and wit on the skillful backs of its two actors.  The numerous characters are defined and elongated into something that is instantly recognizable, and even when they veer towards stereotypes or over-the-top postures, the performers beautifully ground these people instantly in the dry thirsty soil of Popcorn Falls. “Is acting like crying?“, Becky questions the mayor as she takes a selfie while auditioning for the town play. Quick as a squirrel, Becky establishes herself as one of my favorite Souhrada creations, alongside his flirty young gal bartender and her daughter at the Sudsy Mug.

With a chalkboard guiding our way through town, beautifully orchestrated on the wonderful auditorium set by Tim Mackabee (Broadway’s The Elephant Man, Atlantic’s Describe the Night), with lighting by Jeff Croiter (Broadway’s Bandstand), and original music and sound design by Jeffrey Lodin (Liberty, a Monumental Musical), the fast past show swims ferociously forward bypassing ridiculousness and somehow avoiding death by drowning. The human sound effects are perfection and just when you start to wonder how this wise and smart show is going to find its way to curtain time, the play reveals its splendor. It circles back to the beginning so neatly and magnificently, just like a log-ride at an amusement park, that you’ll want to stay buckled in for one more turn through the rapids. So stand and cheer for these two fantastic performers, the sharp direction, and the wild water ride down Popcorn Falls that the wise playwright has turned on so brilliantly with a simple blue umbrella. It’s far too much fun to miss. All you need is a fluffy sweater, a bottle of water in order to climb on-board the newly constructed set-boat to get to the surprising Popcorn Falls.

picturedLtoRAdamHellerandTomSouhrada (2)
Adam Heller, Tom Souhrada. All photos by Monique Carboni.

So for more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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