The town of Popcorn Falls is in serious trouble. Its one tourist attraction — its falls — has disappeared after a dam was built upstream. A plan to level the downtown and build a sewage plant seems like the only thing that will save it from bankruptcy.
Suddenly, a lightbulb goes off over Mayor Trundle’s head. The best way to save the town is to seek out funds set aside for a theater by the Cattaraugus County Budget Planning Committee. Only trouble is, the town doesn’t have a theater but if the townsfolk put on a play that could save them from residing in Sewage Falls or worse.
Winterport Open Stage returned to the Samuel L. Wagner Middle School last weekend with a production of James Hidman’s “Popcorn Falls.” It’s the company’s first show in four years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The two-person play is 90 minutes of silly fun, full of physical comedic antics with a dash of sentimentality thrown in for good measure. It also is quite fitting that Winterport Open Stage, celebrating its 30th year, launched a post-pandemic production about a play saving a town.
“Popcorn Falls” premiered off-Broadway in 2019. Written by actor/playwright James Hindman, it features 15 different characters portrayed by two actors, Dominick Varney and Jenny Hart. The pair work together seamlessly to portray the town’s mayor, librarian, teacher, bartender, sheriff, pastor, funeral director, janitor and lumberyard owner, to name just a few characters.
Hart, wearing a tie sporting images of popcorn, is delightfully sincere as Mayor Trundle, a man seeking a new life in the small town. The actress lovingly portrays his passion for the community and determination to save it.
Hart’s best scenes are the ones where the mayor convinces the townsfolk to believe a play can save them if they just all work together.
Varney, well known in the Bangor area theater and drag scenes, creates nearly a dozen distinct characters using props and costume pieces. He plays men and women with equal aplomb, wringing every funny moment from the script.
Brianne Beck and Varney are credited with directing the show while Hart designed the set and the lighting. About half a dozen people pulled this show together, according to the program. That’s fewer people than there are characters in the show.
At 30, Winterport Open Stage is older than every other community theater group in Greater Bangor, except for Bangor Community Theatre, which was founded in 1969. For more than three decades, the organization has entertained and enlightened audiences on a small stage in the multipurpose room of the Wagner Middle School, usually with spartan sets and a few stage lights.
“Popcorn Falls” is a triumphant return after a very long blackout and deserves to be enjoyed by area theatergoers. Here’s hoping this show will jumpstart this little community theater company back to its lively post-pandemic life.
Winterport Open Stage’s production of “Popcorn Falls” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Samuel L. Wagner Middle School, 19 Williams Way, Winterport. For tickets, visit the group’s Facebook page or buy them at the door. Concessions, including popcorn, are available before the show.