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Will Zach Braff's New Play Change Your Life?

Posted on Thursday March 1, 2012, 09:28 by Ali Plumb in Empire States
Will Zach Braff's New Play Change Your Life?

If you’re film fan looking for wildly entertaining theatre in London over the next couple of months, you’re thoroughly spoiled for choice. At the Gielgud Theatre, there’s Graham Linehan’s acclaimed adaptation of Ealing classic The Ladykillers, while down at the Old Vic, comic farce-sterpiece Noises Off has proved so popular that it’s transferring to the Novello Theatre on March 24.

If neither of those appeal, there’s always The 39 Steps, Criterion Theatre’s fantastically funny five-year-old four-man farce. Basically, it's effing good.

And if you’re looking for something amusing but almost entirely unrelated to film, you could see One Man, Two Guvnors, the National Theatre’s modernised version of The Servant of Two Masters at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Everyone’s given it five stars. Pretty much, anyway.

Looking to sidle in on their comedy turf, Zach Braff’s All New People is now playing at the Duke of York's Theatre – and though it’s enjoyable, it’s not in the same league as Noises Off and co.

What it has going for it is its excellent cast – Zach Braff plays the mopey lead, Charlie, Torchwood’s Eve Myles a nervous British estate agent, the RSC’s Paul Hilton a drug-dealing fireman and’s Susannah Fielding a escort girl – all of whom end up in a Long Beach holiday home one winter’s night.

This being written by Braff, there are plenty of enjoyable comic touches, oddball non-sequiturs and silly similes – "love is like trying to build a house of cards on the back of a squirrel" – that’ll keep Scrubs fans content as the plot meanders along.

But despite an occasionally funny moment and the cast’s impressive acting talent, All New People feels more Last Kiss than Garden State.

It's partly because of the morbid storyline – it begins with Eve Myles walking in on Braff’s Charlie attempting to hang himself on an extension cord – and partly because of a messy script. Forgoing exposition, characters’ backgrounds are revealed with a drop-down cinema screen and a brief video projection; the real reason behind Charlie’s suicidal tendencies is skirted around for too long before anything is revealed, and there’s a general air of something that's not quite as funny as it’d like to be.

Love, hope, happiness and the meaning of life are all discussed by the characters as if they are ponderous emos in a sixth-form common room, swallowing up the jokes with a touch too much sadface.

Then again, if your copy of Garden State is regularly in and out of its DVD case, and Zach Braff’s brand of introspective goofery hasn’t lost its shine for you yet, there’s plenty to enjoy, especially in the on-stage charm of Zach himself.

In other words, a mixed bag. Part of me wants the cast – possibly even with these characters – to act in another, more confident, funnier play, stripped of the stilting high-schooler gloom and introspective waffle. Another just wants to see Braff in bigger role in a more established play. Noises Off, for instance.

Still, if you can't make it down to London town to make up your own mind on this one, there's always the Garden State Blu-ray - now with high-resolution Natalie Portman.

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1 flame23
Posted on Thursday March 1, 2012, 10:33
I saw this when it was in Glasgow. Thought it was definitely very watchable, although I do sympathize with some of the criticism here - not quite enough jokes to keep it skipping along.

2 gambit21
Posted on Thursday March 1, 2012, 13:38
I also saw this in Glasgow - generally agree with the criticisms. Funny bits were funny but fairly infrequent, especially in the second half. Despite the comments about the cast I thought that Braff was the weakest actor in it, playing the weakest character. Not that he was terrible just the weakest.

3 Masked Dave
Posted on Thursday March 1, 2012, 15:07
I saw it in Manchester and I agree, it's all right but not as funny as it needs to be.

And the "reveal" at the end with Eve Myles character just seemed terribly forced and unnecessary.

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