By Tom Barry
To date the only play written by Zach Braff, All New People sits firmly within the nebulous genre of ‘dark comedy’; a style often attempted and rarely successful. Mostly, a playwright setting out on the creation of a ‘dark comedy’, merely writes something that is neither as funny as a comedy, nor as disturbing as a tragedy.
And while Braff’s script occasionally falls foul of this stylistic balancing act, his play is an impressive feat, conjuring a coherent plot and entertaining characters out of nothing, edging into absurdism at points which complement its overall ridiculousness. Platform’s production does considerable justice to an ambitious play, taking into account its limited performances in New York and London and Braff’s writing the central role for himself.
Set in a beach house on Long Island, All New People begins with a man in a dressing gown, being unexpectedly interrupted in the act of hanging himself, and the play derives a great deal of its humour from his constant, feeble attempts to get everyone to leave him alone so that he can finish the job. Its characters, though dim-witted and largely incompetent, are endearing and instinctively well-intentioned. The entire cast are remarkably well-suited to their roles, and embody them so comfortably that its hard to imagine anyone else playing them. John Chisham as the meekly suicidal Charlie wears an expression of existential blankness like a tailored suit, and provides a welcome foil to the three other characters, all of whom are pretending to be far more confident and in control than they really are. Despite their clashing neuroses, none of them seem so caricatured as to be unrecognisable as real personalities.
All New People begins with a man in a dressing gown, being unexpectedly interrupted in the act of hanging himself, and the play derives a great deal of its humour from his constant, feeble attempts to get everyone to leave him alone so that he can finish the job.
Director Carrie Morrison deserves praise for choosing to stage a recent, lesser-known play rather than a tired classic, and for finding actors who perform well as an ensemble, in a piece where a single weak link would doom the production. Coupled with Natasha Dawson’s simple yet eye-catching set, All New People makes for an agreeable evening’s entertainment. It’s just a shame that when writing the script, Braff was not content to be funny and tried also to be profound, as these sudden shifts in tone derail the play’s momentum, which the cast work so hard to build. But this particular production has much more to said for it than against, and I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to see this play performed when in all likelihood I never will again.
All New People by Zach Braff, directed by Carrie Morrison. Performing in the Large Rehearsal Room TFTV at 7:30pm on the 28th and 29th of October. Tickets available online and in the TFTV foyer before performance.