Braff’s Dumb Hooker, Mopey Stoner Make ‘New People’ Old Hat: Jeremy Gerard

Zach Braff, whose slacker movie “Garden State” made him a critics’ darling nine long years ago, has written a slacker play unlikely to endear him to anyone.

“All New People,” like the film, is set in New Jersey, in this case at an upscale beach house studded with art that signals to the audience “Modigliani.” “Stella.” “African primitive.” Etc.

The lights come up on Charlie (Justin Bartha, hirsute and zhlubby) trying to hang himself from the cathedral ceiling with an electrical cord. Enter Emma (Krysten Ritter, sporting the worst British accent since Lindsay Lohan’s fake Haley Mills in “The Parent Trap”), a logorrheic real estate agent. She is clearly as incompetent in her chosen endeavor as Charlie is in his.

Enter also Myron (David Wilson Barnes), the glue-sniffing, drug-dealing fire chief with an unrequited hankering for Emma. And enter, finally, Kim (Anna Camp), a happy hooker with an IQ somewhat south of her platform-shoe size, sent from Manhattan as a gift to cheer up Charlie.

Sample dialog:

Emma: I’m an illegal alien.

Kim: Funny, I would never have guessed you were Mexican.

Stop Action

Braff, doubtless having studied playwriting, endows each member of this mongrel quartet with a big terrible secret, revealed in film clips that stop the action cold. They have even less credibility than the live exchanges onstage. Like the art sprinkled throughout the house, everything about “All New People” screams “Phoney! Phoney! Phoney!”

The play is staged very loud and very fast; perhaps director Peter DuBois thought we wouldn’t notice the vacuum within, not to mention the tired but still ugly sexism that passes here for humor.

Call me squeamish but using female anatomy as a slur and making an actress say repeatedly that her character is there for anyone to do whatever they want to her -- and isn’t that just fun? -- seems so, I don’t know, 1980s.

Pity these good actors. “All New People” is testament to the fact that they give their all even when, like Kim the call girl, they usually end up not with Richard Gere but Larry King.

At 305 W. 43rd St. Information: +1-246-4422; http://www.2st.com Rating: (no stars)


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(Jeremy Gerard is an editor and critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Jeremy Gerard in New York at jgerard2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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