Monday, January 14, 2013

Zoetic Stage: All New People (reviews)

Zoetic Stage opened its production of Zach Braff's All New People on January 10, 2013.
Charlie is having a tough time with life and, on his 35th birthday, decides to call it quits. Ruining his plans is a parade of hilariously odd but engaging characters who are somehow sent to save his life.

From Zach Braff, the writer, director and lead of the hit film Garden State and star of the long-running TV comedy "Scrubs," All New People is a fresh look at unexpected and accidental friendships that arise in life's most trying moments.
Stewart Meltzer directed a cast that featured Amy McKenna, Todd Allen Durkin, Betsy Graver, and Nicholas Richberg.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Staged by Stuart Meltzer with a sensitivity toward the ebb and flow of the characters’ many moods, the play careens from being riotously funny to sobering, sometimes within the space of a few minutes. And yet again, Zoetic provides a showcase for some of South Florida’s finest acting talent.
Certain production elements could use tinkering... What needs no work whatsoever are four terrific performances.
Richberg’s task is the toughest one, as Charlie is often an emotionally switched off observer. But the final moments of his journey back toward light and life are lovely. McKenna is totally believable as the chatty, drug-loving Emma, yet it’s clear that every intricate element of her performance has been effectively thought out. Graver delivers one of the best performances of her young career, making Kim an irresistible life force. And Magic City regular Durkin crafts yet another magnetic character: funny, outrageous and, when Myron incongruously delivers one of Shylock’s speeches from The Merchant of Venice, leaping from laughter to moving drama in a heartbeat.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
South Florida theater critics have to kiss a lot of comedy frogs before they find a prince, so we’re exhilarated when we discover one as magical as Zoetic Stage’s hilarious and touching All New People.

This is how it’s done, folks. It’s not just that Zach Braff has written a hysterical yet insightful script about four insanely disparate and damaged thirty-somethings struggling with the aloneness of being alive. What Zoetic Artistic Director Stuart Meltzer and his quartet of actors do with that material is masterful in comic timing, narrative pacing, inhabiting characters, line readings, excavating meaning, variety of tone yet unity of approach, you name it.  Did we mention it’s seriously funny?
Hopefully, you’ll be too enthralled to notice, but Meltzer and company deftly negotiate a slow curve from wacky absurdist farce to tender compassion and later a hopeful resolution that emerges organically– and always leavening it with belly laughs.
Richberg... has the toughest challenge making the perpetually despondent Charlie not just likeable but interesting enough to be the fulcrum of the evening... he succeeds by delivering a genuine sense of aching sorrow under that hangdog expression.
Graver... has had several not-quite-as-dim-as-she-seems roles recently and the marvel is that she has made each different from the other. More importantly, Graver’s Kim brings an open honesty and sweetness to the party.
McKenna... nails Emma’s shakily constructed perkiness and communicates that earnest intensity that comes from struggling to focus when a mind is scrambled with whatever illicit pharmaceutical is available.
Saving the best for last is Durkin. He fearlessly becomes this crass, sexually obsessed glue sniffer who is clearly lonely for all his macho posturing. Just as he did in Zoetic’s Captiva, Durkin delivers uniquely naturalistic line readings that most actors wouldn’t find. Even better, his comic timing, that slight pause, that extra topspin is remarkable.
A side note: We wrote in our essays last summer that South Florida audiences and critics get so accustomed to adequate work that they come to mistake it for excellent work. This is especially true about comedy. It takes a production like All New People to make us recalibrate our standards and remind us what excellence looks like.
Marj O'Neill-Butler reviewed for miamiartzine:
Zoetic's latest, All New People, led by Artistic Director Stuart Meltzer, is now playing at the Arsht Center in downtown Miami and it's a funny and endearing production with four people living out an hour and a half of life saving side-splitting comedy.
Richberg, who is model handsome in real life, is unshaven and with a body that looks like it has given up breathing.   Charlie is in the depths of a deep depression with the intention of offing himself for his past deeds.

Just as he contemplates ending it all, in bursts a realtor, Emma, a stoned expatriate from England played all out physically and emotionally by Amy McKenna...
Todd Alan Durkin... who has a running role as a sleazy lawyer in the TV series Magic City, does a complete turn around in this role. He plays dumb ass to the hilt... And yet... in one of the plays quiet moments he tells a story about his life and his face illustrates pain and disappointment that is heartbreaking.

And finally, enter the escort Kim... Played by the wacky and quirky Betsy Graver...
They each have had their own tragedies that they share with Charlie. Not enough can be said about the ability of these four actors to deliver riotous lines and pitiable stories in the most natural way.
Zoetic Stage presents All New People at the Arsht Center for the Perfomring Arts through January 27, 2013.

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