Story: Tough times are upon Popcorn Falls. With its namesake waterfall, the main source of income for the quaint little town, dried up, the residents are in a tight spot. They need revenue and fast.
The venal head of a nearby corporation is unmoved by the plight of Popcorn Falls, telling the mayor that the town is slated to become one big sewage plant. But the townsfolk do have one hope. There’s a sizable grant available to the local theater troupe if it can produce a play. The slick, slimy corporate guy says sarcastically he’ll even give the town’s anxious mayor an entire week to get that show mounted.
That’s a ridiculously brief time period, but that isn’t the mayor’s biggest challenge. Since the town has no theater company nor even a theater, the mayor and his town hall handyman, along with sundry area eccentrics, need to write, cast, rehearse, direct and produce the play some place real soon to get that grant and keep Popcorn Falls solvent. And you thought you had problems.
Highlights: Joe Hanrahan and Shane Signorino move at a frenetic pace to deliver James Hindman’s amusing trifle with gusto that would make the ‘kernels’ of Popcorn Falls (the residents like that honorary title) proud to call them kindred townsfolk.
Other Info: Hindman’s one-act, 90-minute comedy opened off-Broadway last September and closed in November 2019 after 28 previews and 56 performances. Given the show’s lightweight, fluffy premise and ‘small’ nature, it’s no surprise that it closed after such a brief run.
The prolific playwright also is an actor, keeping himself busy in theater, TV and movies. Popcorn Falls is a valentine of sorts to theater folks in general, and doubtless those involved in ‘show business’ lead the charge for applause.
It’s a sweet enough little tale, made amusing and somewhat entertaining by director Sarah Whitney and her hard-working cast. Hanrahan brings an easy likability to the role of Mr. Trundle, the well-meaning mayor who has a bit of a checkered past but nonetheless brings a smile to a waitress at the local diner.
Although Hindman's dialogue often tries too hard to be funny, Hanrahan and Signorino have a grand time playing 21 parts, often successfully conveying those good feelings to the audience. It’s especially humorous to see Signorino switch identities in the quick time it takes him to walk behind an on-stage curtain and emerge as a different character with just guile and gesticulations.
The duo are zany enough to bring to mind old-time comedies where timing was king, although Hanrahan also can deliver the occasional heartfelt dialogue in Hindman’s straining script. Signorino throws himself into roles as diverse as a snooty teacher and an eccentric librarian as well as the affable “executive custodian” of Popcorn Falls.
Set designer Chuck Winning provides a chalkboard where Hanrahan can set up various scenes and Tony Anselmo adds the complementary lighting. There’s also an abundance of pop tunes filling the brief snippets of time between vignettes.
Popcorn can be tasty and appealing even if one questions its nutritional value after consumption. Popcorn Falls is a fitting title for Hindman’s earnest if forgettable throwaway piece, made palatable by the winning efforts of The Midnight Company’s effervescent cast.
Play: Popcorn Falls
Group: The Midnight Company
Venue: Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand at Olive
Dates: April 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13
Tickets: $20; contact 531-1111 or metrotix.com
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Todd Davis