Take a hilarious trip to “Popcorn Falls”

1520
James Hindman and Tom Souhrada on stage
Popcorn Falls: (L) James Hindman and (R) Tom Souhrada. Photo by Andrea Phox Photography

Popcorn Falls, a community facing bankruptcy and dissolution

James Hindman and Tom Souhrada on stage
Popcorn Falls: (R) James Hindman and (L) Tom Souhrada. Photo by Andrea Phox Photography

The New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch has long been known for its ambitious and well-received productions of modern dramas. Now they show they’re equally adept at flat-out farce with Popcorn Falls, written by the multi-talented James Hindman and acted by Mr. Hindman and Tom Souhrada. Directed by Rose Riccardi, Hindman and Souhrada portray over 20 offbeat citizens of the small town of Popcorn Falls brilliantly. Their chameleon-like portrayals alone are reason enough to go see this truly marvelous play.

The action takes place in Popcorn Falls, a community facing bankruptcy and dissolution after the source of their main tourist attraction, a waterfall from which the town takes its name, is dammed up by a neighboring community.

The town’s newly-elected mayor, Ted Trundle (Hindman), expects to get financial help from the county, only to be told that a grant from the local arts council is dependent on the town producing a play. Trundle, faced with an impossibly tight deadline, plus the fact that there is no theater in the town and no play to perform, joins forces with the town’s chief handyman, Joe (Souhrada) to convince the citizenry to rise above their petty disagreements and fears and save their town.

The acting and direction are sublime. As in the best farces, the action starts slow but builds to a barely-contained whirlwind of near-catastrophe as the townsfolk race against time to write and put on their play. Hindman does fine work as Mayor Trundle, while Souhrada is a solid Joe, and both men ably portray many other characters of both genders. Together, Hindman and Souhrada, with their fluid vocal and physical talents, are a match made in comedic heaven, possessing the rare gift of portraying each of their many parts as easily recognizable individuals.

NJ Rep’s fine in-house team of designers rises to the demands of the show. Chief among these are Jessica Parks, who designed the multi-purpose set; Patricia Doherty, whose clever use of accessories in her minimalist costume designs helps delineate the individuality of the many characters; and the lighting and sound designs of Jill Nagle and Nick Simone.

Popcorn Falls is a marvel — a full-blown, riotous farce that carries within it the hope of overcoming one’s past mistakes and the uplifting power of a community working together. It is a beautifully, hilariously acted two-hander, skillfully and lovingly directed, and I cannot recommend it more highly. It is a gem of this or any other season, and New Jersey Repertory Company is to be praised for bringing it to us. Take a trip off the beaten path and visit the folks in Popcorn Falls

Popcorn Falls is presented by the New Jersey Repertory Company at the Lumia Theatre in Long Branch through February 12, 2023. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to njrep.org or call 732-229-3166.

Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first live play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. He works in the box office at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.