24 Ott «Backstage» by Kevin Austra
Theater and Cinema are two worlds sometimes similar and sometimes opposite, but still inextricably linked.
When these two universes meet, staging can strike truly unexpected chords.
Such is the case with Backstage, written, directed, and starring Kevin Austra, who brings the vibrant world of community theater to the screen with humor, heart, and genuine love for the art. The film revolves around a ramshackle theater group that encounters no small number of obstacles as it tries to bring Shakespeare to the stage.
The days grow increasingly hectic amid rehearsals for the winter play, Romeo and Juliet. Led by determined director Anna, played by the talented Samantha Oliver, the troupe faces challenges ranging from personal conflicts to unforeseen events. As they reconcile daily life with the demands of the production, the characters’ relationships are tested. Friendships are forged and so are unfailing jealousies and competitions, and the true spirit of theater is manifested.
The splitting of life and performance allows for the investigation of relational and personal dynamics, and a contemporary reinterpretation of the consequences of the proverbial ‘miscommunication’ that was the misfortune of the Veronese lovers.
Director Kevin Austra, who also plays the character of Sam, brings to the screen his firsthand experience in the world of theater. His character tries to act as the group’s helper and peacemaker, both backstage and upfront, when he takes the role of Benvolio Montecchi. But when he shows his true feelings, all the tables turn. Austra deftly captures the energy, enthusiasm, and turmoil of scene rehearsals, while also exploring each character’s struggles and revealing a peculiar ability to bring out a multifaceted, choral cast.
With witty dialogue, clever plot twists, and genuine chemistry among the characters, the film’s pace is relentless and keeps the viewer glued to the fates of this microcosm. Backstage uses the metaphor of the theatrical platform and roles for a profound reflection on the link between pain and the desire to express oneself, on the masks we wear that only genuine human contact can overcome.
In this regard, a mention is deserved by Kerwin Gonzalez as Johnny/Mercutius, a character who expresses the vitality and passion of the artist, and by Michael Goldberg as Logan/Romeo, who sustains a layered role that is as capable of opacity and closure as it is of moving. Both show how art enacts tangible change in the lives of the protagonists.
“Backstage” is an enjoyable mix of comedy, drama, and touching moments. The film deftly balances the scenes on the platform with the chaos outside. A love letter to the world of amateur theater, it celebrates the passion, camaraderie, and resilience of those who bring stories to life on scene. It reminds us that the magic of theater extends far beyond the spotlight, embracing the rehearsals and triumphs of cast and crew.
For sure, anyone who has enrolled at least once in a theater workshop or has a subscription to the nearest off/off theater will see a bit of themselves again, but we are also certain that “Backstage” is a must-see film for anyone who appreciates the power of creativity and collaboration.