At 37, actor Zach Braff can identify with the Millennials. But as a creative type, his persona is pure Generation X: neurotic, psychically wounded, emotionally adrift, numb to the malaise of adulthood. That said, he's not averse to wacky meet-cutes, nimble verbal patter, and puns so bad they're good, often positioning himself as a brooding misanthrope trapped in broad 21st-century comedies.
Braff, the writer and star of Garden State -- one of those movies that seems profound when you're in college and looks awfully puerile later in life -- emerged from recent obscurity in 2011 to deliver his debut play, All New People, off Broadway. Less than two years later, Miami's Zoetic Stage is producing the Southeastern regional premiere. Like Garden State, it centers on a sensitive, melancholy intellectual suffering from an affliction whose cure, apparently, is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG), among other surprise guests.
All New People is set in "a high-end Long Beach Island beach house" in "the dead of winter." Michael McKeever's set design suggests IKEA budget-chic more than beachside luxury, but it's a handsome interior nonetheless, with faux stone walls and fireplace, a faux marble bar, mood-setting abstract canvases on the walls, and, behind the sofa, a hilariously ugly piece of African cloth-and-bead art that resembles an outsize abacus.
As the play opens, Charlie (Nicholas Richberg) is standing on the bar of this polished abode. A homemade orange noose dangles from the ceiling and hangs slack around his neck. A Riverdance jig absurdly blares from the stereo system while he finishes what he assumes will be his last cigarette. He's careful not to drop any ashes on the counter -- a wordless bit of ironic humor and one of many nice touches from director Stuart Meltzer.