Sunday, January 30, 2022

Wetumpka Depot: "Popcorn Falls"

For its 42nd Season opener, the Wetumpka Depot is showing the 2019 Off-Broadway hit Popcorn Falls, by James Hindman. -- Following in the long tradition of the Greater Tuna franchise and The Mystery of Irma Vep, two actors play numerous characters in madcap antics, and keep audiences entertained and impressed by their skills for a masked COVID-safe evening's entertainment.

In this case, the actors under Cushing Phillips' confident direction are two veteran Depot stalwarts: Jeff Langham and Kim Mason, whose award-winning acting and directing credits in Wetumpka and across the River Region are admirable. Their reputations will continue to be lauded with this production that showcases their ample talents.

The premise [as in many farcical enterprises] is convoluted: the fictitious town of Popcorn Falls is bankrupt, its namesake waterfall is dry, the town's boundaries have been re-drawn to benefit a corrupt businessman who is willing to destroy the town and build a sewage treatment plant, and even though  there is a connection to George Washington there, the only way to save the town is for the mayor and citizens who call themselves Popcorn Falls "kernels" to utilize an almost forgotten financial grant to put on a play in seven days.

With no theatre experience, but with a lot of passion, the mish-mash of eccentric townsfolk go on a roller coaster ride of writing and auditioning roles for the show, lots of trial and error, wide-eyed optimism, weather disasters, personality conflicts, tentative romantic interludes, and the deadline drawing ever closer as rehearsals fall apart. 

So, there is some tension in the script, but our attention is riveted on the actors. Their ability to transform into so many distinct characters by simply switching hats, coats, or eyeglasses, and by deftly changing vocal textures and physical postures in the blink of an eye, and occasionally playing more than one character in a scene, Mr. Langham and Ms. Mason provide an impressive master-class in comic performance. 

Popcorn Falls is a welcome respite from the Winter doldrums; it lifts our spirits with its messages that "everything happens for a reason" and that "theatre brings us together".