Since time immemorial, humanity has sought to fit into a social circle. Whether this is by design or intrinsic is still up for debate. What is not up for debate is that when we find our clique, we are at home with the people who understand our wants and desires while sharing our common interests. That need is a small part of the themes that Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman explore in Theater Camp. They have been explored before, and the results are not earth-shattering; the characters that occupy the movie are what drive the film, for better and for worse.

That the characters learn and grow naturally is what makes Theater Camp unique.

Based on a short story of the same name from Noah Galvin, Gordon, Lieberman, and Ben Platt, Theater Camp is a modern underdog story, only not all the characters understand that they are underdogs. Gordon plays Rebecca-Diane, an outstanding camp counselor at the scrappy AdirondACTS theater camp in upstate New York. Rebecca-Diane is such an imposing force because her character recognizes the need to expand her boundaries. Of course, she keeps this secret from her co-counselor, Amos Klobuchar (Platt), as the two lead the end-of-the-season production, the two characters teaming up to write the individual acts, including the music.

Platt’s character is full of grit and determination and no small amount of desire for recognition while at the same time remaining oblivious to Rebecca-Diane’s willingness to grow, something that the camp should be teaching but is not.

Joan, the camp’s founder (Amy Sedaris), has fallen into a coma. It is up to Rebecca-Diane and Amos, more so Amos than Rebecca-Diane, or so he thinks, to save the camp from Joan’s clueless son, Troy (Jimmy Tatro), who has come to realize the precipice the camp sits on. This would be a convincing part of the storyline; however, Troy is an “influencer” who thinks he has the business sense to drive the camp toward success. Tatro’s performance is, in a word, annoying. The character eases up, but not before being forced to include the other counselors in the camp, and annoyance turns into contempt, even if it is well placed.

I feel it incumbent to note “influencer” in quotes. As society latches on to technology, new ways are found to help industry reach its audience. Though an independent influencer might understand how to get a specific, broad audience, Troy is an example of someone who has a voice and doesn’t understand the implications of the knowledge he learns or how to use it. It can be detrimental to going concerns like a camp.

Yes, Troy has ideas, but the way the character is depicted and performed by Tatro, the character thinks that just because he has a microphone and a stage from which to bellow his words of wisdom, that doesn’t make him any less responsible for the words or actions being sent out into the digital ether. This is no less than the words I am putting into this review, though Theater Camp acknowledges the character’s shortcomings and addresses them. The point of my saying this is that no matter what we learn and how we disseminate it, we need to be cognizant of the damage our words can cause, even as outsiders in an established group.

Fortunately, Gordon and Lieberman’s direction is solid. They inject problems, and the solutions eventually come together. It doesn’t change Amos’ idea of what camp should be because the characters don’t communicate their intentions clearly.

Noah Gavin’s Glenn Wintrop, the camp’s technical director, who seems to be in as many places at the same time as I could count, solves the challenges Troy’s and Amos’s shenanigans cause. His character had two desires, one in the background and one in the limelight. The character finds their place in the third act, but all throughout Theater Camp, Galvin offers a journeyman’s performance, one that stands out amongst all the other characters as the underdog who knows they’re an underdog, accepts it, and forges a new path forward. Glenn, and by extension of his performance, Galvin is the most refreshing of characters I’ve seen yet this year.

Though the themes Theater Camp explores have been done in other movies, there is a level of passion from Gordon and Lieberman, both in their co-direction and toward their shared script. That is ultimately why Theater Camp is a refreshing take on the subject. My annoyances notwithstanding, the story drives past them, resolving differences and finally solving the challenges of wanting to be included versus naturally being included.