Zach Braff’s ‘All New People’ fails to illuminate the human condition

You can’t have it both ways: LVLT’s All New People tries to be funny and serious.
Jacob Coakley

Two and a half stars

All New People Through May 17; Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; $21-$24. Las Vegas Little Theatre, 702-362-7996.

There are shows that don’t quite make the leap to what they want to be, and All New People by Zach Braff is among them. It aspires to be an earnest examination of an unlikely group of people working through a dark night of the soul, but never becomes more than a slightly dim evening of partying. And Las Vegas Little Theatre’s uneven production doesn’t add more depth.

The show starts with Charlie (played by Lysander Abadia) attempting to hang himself. In an awkward turn of events he’s interrupted by Emma (Meaghan Elizabeth). It’s a funny bit, but it also felt rushed, as if the actors were jumping straight to the consequences of the interruption without letting the moment occur. While Charlie tries to intimidate Emma into leaving, she calls the authorities, in the form of Myron (Joel Hengstler), a fireman with a quip for everything. Soon they are joined by Kim (Abby Dandy), a prostitute sent to cheer Charlie up. The evening descends into a bacchanalia of booze, drugs and sex as they get to know each other. The show isn’t exactly R-rated, but it’s also certainly not for the prudish.

Abadia plays Charlie with a mixture of desperate charm and aggression—but never seems to find a balance. There’s a little too much posing in his charm, and it doesn’t seem to connect to the annihilating self-condemnation. Elizabeth had a zest for the salty language of Emma, and it was delightful to listen to the hairpin turns of her profanity-laced lines, but a little relaxation into the circumstances would have helped pop the humor. Hengstler brought a real immediacy to Myron, and was the clearest about his character’s emotional journey. Kim has little to do except be delightfully vapid, and Dandy brought the appropriate bounce to it.

Unfortunately, while all of these characters work as types, under Gillen Brey’s direction, they don’t seem to develop through the evening. Even as the characters imbibe mass quantities of restricted substances, they don’t seem to get drunker or higher, and the emotional stakes don’t seem to deepen, either. Character backstory is illuminated in video interludes (with a cleverly staged curtain), but while the video explains it doesn’t add—and is poorly produced. The show wants to have it both ways, to be funny and to be a serious examination of the human condition. There’s humor here, but it doesn’t reach poignancy.

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