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‘Popcorn Falls’ has kernel of truth

Ryan Hutchins, standing, plays Joe the janitor opposite Bob Andrews’ Mayor Trundle in Pendragon Theatre’s latest show, “Popcorn Falls.” (Provided photo — Burdette Parks)

SARANAC LAKE — You have no cash, your moneymaker is gone, and your home is about to be filled with human excrement. What do you do? Put on a show, of course.

Pendragon Theatre will produce the comedy “Popcorn Falls” throughout the rest of the month.

“Popcorn Falls” is one of those “let’s put on a show” shows ala “Babes in Arms” and a slew of other Mickey Rooney films where a community is faced with a problem and the only way to solve it is with a theater production. In this case, the town of Popcorn Falls is in dire straits after their county builds a dam, drying up the town’s namesake and main tourist attraction. The county plans to convert the town into a sewage treatment plant. So the new mayor of Popcorn Falls and a local handyman get to work creating a show that could bring enough money into the town to fund a new playhouse and save the community from going down the drain.

“It’s so much like our human spirit,” Director Kim Bouchard said. “You see it with children when they pretend play and how enthusiastic middle school and high school students are about doing plays. It’s built into our DNA. We like to perform. We like to tell stories.”

For anyone living in Saranac Lake, the plot should sound a little familiar. Not that this village is on the verge of bankruptcy, but one of the big projects going forward is the new Pendragon Theatre on Woodruff Street, which is expected to be a key tourist attraction and revenue generator for Saranac Lake. Bouchard said the play selection was on purpose.

‘Usually in a production you have one character that you’re playing, so you’re developing their character arc, what they want, their goals — really fleshing it out to make it the most genuine performance. When you’re playing like, eight or nine different people, you don’t get that as much.’ - Ryan Hutchins (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

The play had a short run in New York City in 2018 and recently went public for other theaters to perform it. Pendragon is going to be one of the first companies to produce the show outside of its initial run.

The show features a cast of about 20 characters, but only two actors portray them — Bob Andrews and Ryan Hutchins. Outside their more straight-man characters of Mayor Ted Trundle and the janitor Joe, the two play an array of wacky townsfolk from a posh lady obsessed with her cat to a sex-crazed, chain-smoking, sixth grade art teacher.

“One of the harder parts about it is making sure that each character is distinct from one another — finding their voice, speech pattern,” Hutchins said. “The most important thing is their physicality — how they walk, how they gesture.”

Hutchins said it’s a fun challenge portraying so many characters, but it doesn’t really allow in-depth takes on each one.

“It has its perks, but it’s very different,” he said. “Usually in a production you have one character that you’re playing, so you’re developing their character arc, their backstory, what they want, their goals — really fleshing it out to make it the most genuine performance. When you’re playing, like, eight or nine different people, you don’t get that as much.”

Rodents have chewed through a wire at the Popcorn Falls town hall, giving Ryan Hutchins’ Joe the janitor and Bob Andrews’ Mayor Trundle something to chew on in “Popcorn Falls” at the Pendragon Theatre. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

One of Andrews’ characters is German, and he based the cartoony voice on Kenneth Mars’ Inspector Kemp from “Young Frankenstein.”

“I find myself latching on to certain characters that we recognize from other plays or movies,” he said.

The costuming and makeup are also limited. For the most part, Andrews wears a dress shirt and sweater vest while Hutchins is in custodial clothing. Occasionally, they might slip on a pair of glasses or a scarf to transform into someone new. Like Woody Allen questioning himself during the court scene in “Bananas,” the actors have to switch roles at a moment’s notice.

“These characters are changing in the blink of an eye,” Andrews said. “You don’t have the costuming to rely on, so it has to be a distinctive physical tone that defines the character and makes it immediately recognizable.”

If you go …

What: “Popcorn Falls”

Where: Pendragon Theatre, 15 Brandy Brook, Saranac Lake

When: Feb. 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 15, 16 22 and 23 at 2 p.m.

How much: $22 per ticket

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