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Popcorn Falls
by James Hindman
Directed by Sarah Whitney
The Midnight Company
March 30, 2019

Popcorn Falls is the latest quirky, offbeat production from Joe Hanrahan’s Midnight Company. Hanrahan is well-known in St. Louis for his one-man shows, but he has also shared the stage with an array of excellent local performers. This time, Hanrahan and Shane Signorino team up with director Sarah Whitney to stage a hilariously energetic comedy of hopes, dreams, and a host of memorable characters.

As is usual for Midnight shows, the staging is minimal, with just a few furniture pieces and props, and that’s all that’s needed here, along with some occasional simple costume changes as the actors change from one character to another. The main figures in the story–set in the declining small town of Popcorn Falls–are new mayor Ted Trundle (Hanrahan), and janitor Joe (Signorino), who find themselves teaming up to save the town from power-hungry county executive Doyle (also Signorino) who aims to tear down Popcorn Falls and build a sewage treatment plant in its place. The ray of hope comes in the form of a financial grant that was awarded for the purpose of financing a theatre group in the town–but there isn’t one, so Mayor Trundle sets out to start one with the aim of putting on a play in order to receive the money and save the town, even after Doyle has given them the seemingly impossible deadline of one week in which to stage this production. Through the course of the show, we meet a varied cast of characters who are assembled to be part of this show, and we learn more about everyone as relationships grow, backstories are revealed, and the characters encounter a series of increasingly difficult obstacles in their efforts to save the town.

With this show, the story is fun, but it’s the performers who essentially are the show. Hanrahan and Signorino are both impressive in their energy and presence, bringing a host of characters to life, with Hanrahan’s hapless Trundle and Signorino’s regretful Joe being the anchors. Hanrahan is excellent as usual, and Signorino–who has the most characters to play–is equally impressive, introducing the audience to such different personalities as an imperious librarian, a moody teenage girl, a single mother and aspiring actress, the villainous Doyle, and more. The interplay between these actors and their characters, along with the clever staging to allow for the quick changes–including both performers playing the same character at different times when needed–adds to the comedy and flow of the production. The simple set by Chuck Winning and lights by Tony Anselmo work well to maintain the overall improvised feel of the production, supporting playwright James Hindman’s fast-moving script.

This is a simple, somewhat frantic production that gets its energy–and its heart–from its performers. It’s not a long show, but there’s a lot going on, with something of a twist to the ending that’s entirely fitting to the tone of the show. Ultimately, Popcorn Falls is a fun show.

The Midnight Company is presenting Popcorn Falls at the Kranzberg Arts Center until April 13, 2019

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