Make us your home page

Review: Zach Braff's 'All New People' at Jobsite combines jokes and introspection

TAMPA — If you're familiar with the nooks and crannies of Zach Braff's entertainment muffin, his play All New People should feel pretty spot on.

There's the Zach Braff from Scrubs, whose character regularly daydreamed his way into absurd scenarios: waking up missing kidneys in an ice bath, pro wrestling in a singlet, watching everyone around him break into Kung Fu fights or West Side Story dance battles.

Then there's the Zach Braff who makes things like the movie Garden State, a navel gazer about an aimless twentysomething who comes home after his mother dies, then spends lots of time screaming into canyons and wistfully dissecting what it means to be happy.

As for All New People, it feels like Braff put both of those sensibilities into a cocktail shaker and poured them out all over the stage. The play, which premiered Off-Broadway in 2011, was a cool, fresh choice for Jobsite Theater, the resident theater company at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. It's not a perfect piece, but director Paul Potenza and the cast deftly handle the valleys of the script.

The play opens on Charlie, a despondent 35-year-old who is about to hang himself with an electrical cord inside a luxury rental house on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. At the crucial moment, a wacky British real estate agent named Emma (Meg Heimstead) bursts in the door, hoping to show the house to some prospective renters.

Heimstead plays Emma with relentless energy and dynamic comic levels, elegantly uttering lines like, "I suck at being human. Desperation has made me evil, so I apologize." It's fun to watch her alarmed reactions when Charlie (Chris Holcom) delivers some scary news about his situation. Emma decides she was cosmically sent to save Charlie.

Soon, we meet the rest of the cast, who show up staggered to systematically execute the play's mission of proving people can crawl out of despair with the help of other humans.

There's Myron (Jack Holloway) a firefighter and the island's drug dealer. There's Kim (Katie Castonguay), a dense escort sent to Charlie as a present. They're all self-medicated train wrecks, putting Charlie and his problems into a sobering first-world context.

All the characters have back stories, of course, and we learn about them in the form of short films displayed on the beach rental's curtains. The films are well-acted with polished production values, but they feel jarring and not completely necessary. We could have learned more about the characters with some subtle dialogue.

Nonetheless, All New People moves fast, full of rimshot jokes that harken to Braff's slick sitcom pedigree. It's packed with pop culture references, from Home Alone to Fantasy Island to Gremlins to Usher. Holloway as Myron is particularly funny, with a wry Seth Rogen quality in the way he delivers lines.

Just when you think All New People is going to be one long drug and sex joke (albeit a pretty sharp one), things start to get real. This is where Garden State Braff starts to take over, with the script giving the characters some more complicated emotional scars and opportunities to stare middle-distance into the crowd and explore the onerous trials of living.

The tone change feels kind of abrupt, but it's also a welcome slice of meat after the jokes have run their course. Holcom takes Charlie from something kind of shouty and dead-eyed into something more layered and woeful. The growth feels satisfying.

Jobsite is ultimately able to get the moral across: We're all barely operating on the fringes of normalcy, and life sometimes sticks it to us. Yet perhaps we can work together to help each other make it out alive.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8716.

If you go

All New People

Runs through June 1 at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, $28. Runs 90 minutes with no intermission. 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa, (813) 229-7827.

Review: Zach Braff's 'All New People' at Jobsite combines jokes and introspection 05/13/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 2:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of …

    Kim Campbell, wife of country music legend Glen Campbell, is acknowledged by those attending the free event where she shared the story of her personal journey with Alzheimer???‚??„?s disease and the struggles she faced caring for her husband on Friday (5/26/17) at the Suncoast Hospice's Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater. Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care hosted the free event where Kim shared her story to help others understand the early stages, how the disease changes lives, the challenges families face and the role of caregiver.
  2. What happened when I took my dad to a Pitbull concert

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA — "So, you know how you like Pitbull?" I asked my dad. "We can see him."

    Selfie of Divya Kumar and Anand Kumar at Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias concert.
  3. Tampa City Council votes to accept travel invitation from Cuban ambassador


    The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

    The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 25


    St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. 9 a.m., Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 342-0084.

    Kristen Whalen poses for a photo before the start of the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg last year. It's that time of year again, so check with us for your planning purposes. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)]
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24


    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth …

    Thousands line the streets of Central Ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg.  [Saturday, June 25, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]