Standing on a chair with an electrical cord around his neck, is depressed, bathrobe clad, Charlie (Justin Bartha of “The Hangover” fame), a traffic controller, puffing that one last cigarette and trying to find the ashtray, when the door opens and he inadvertently steps off the chair. It’s suicide interruptus as daffy real estate gal Emma (Krysten Ritter) attempts to get him back to the chair as he dangles unexpectedly. It’s the dead of winter and she happened in to show the house to prospective renters.
Zach Braff debuts his first play at 2econd Stage Theatre and is multi-talented as an actor (Scrubs) and director-writer for his movie GardenState. “All New People” is a dark comedy about loneliness, the need for love and sharing as this group of zany characters come together in the slick looking beach house (set design Alexander Dodge) where Charlie’s friend, a rich stockbroker, has installed him. Enter Emma, a babbling Brit whose main concern is her expired Green Card and how she can remain in America, who calls her friend Myron (David Wilson Barnes), a former teacher fired because he was caught on Facebook doing cocaine with his students and is now the island’s fire chief and local drug dealer. After he shows up, next to arrive is Kim (Anna Camp) the sexy dumb blonde who dubs herself an Escort and says she was sent as a present by Charlie’s friend Kevin (who owns the house) to cheer him up. Myron, referring to her as what she is, a high priced ($15,000 an hour) call girl, makes fun of her title saying “and I’m a pressurized water carrier.”
The humor flies steadily as Charlie remains morose, attempts to get them to leave, weaves tales of what he does – “I’m a fighter pilot,” to which Myron replies “You’re a little too Jewey,” as the three uninvited guests drink, smoke pot and snort cocaine, using the explicative language of the day. As an aside, if you’re sitting close enough, the smell of the fake cigarettes can become a bit overwhelming.
Unfolding are the personalities and secrets of each of the characters as their back-stories enlighten through the use of interspersed film clips. Emma, back in England, giving money to Kevin Conway (the why told later in the play); Tony Goldwyn, as Kevin the rich stockbroker, having sex with Kim and being blackmailed; Myron, as a teacher, being fired by S. Epatha Merkerson, as the principal.
Charlie eventually confides “I murdered six people,” in a flashback film of him sitting at work, involving two ants having a tug of war with a crumb, clarifying all.
There are lots of laughs as this unlikely group unveil themselves. Camp is marvelous as the wacky, loveable, kind hearted call girl; Barnes proves up to the task as the smooth talking fireman; Ritter is a little too fast chattering-squeaky but does the job as the daffy Brit broker and Bartha works hard as the depressive Charlie finding his way to continue to rise to the occasion.
Don’t look too deeply into this play; just take it for what it is, raunchy fun deftly directed by Peter DuBois, and enjoy!
2econd Stage Theatre, West 43rd Street, NYC