TV star Zach Braff turns playwright
Hollywood incursions into off-Broadway can be a mixed bag. But there's something happening at Second Stage Theatre, where for the second year in a row some talent from the screen world is melding nicely with the theater universe.
Earlier this week at Second Stage, Justin Bartha ("The Hangover"), Krysten Ritter ("Breaking Bad") and Anna Camp ("True Blood") opened "All New People," a dramatic comedy in which a 35-year-old depressive named Charlie (Bartha) sees his suicide attempt rudely interrupted by a merry band of dysfunctionals. The play is written by "Scrubs" veteran Zach Braff, who got in touch with his inner Eugene O'Neill in penning his first play. (Read more on Braff's unusual turn here.)
"People" follows last year's "Trust," written by studio filmmaker Paul Weitz and starring Braff and Bobby Cannavale, which also was mounted at Second Stage. Directing both? Peter DuBois, a veteran stage hand who's coming off several acclaimed productions of "Becky Shaw."
DuBois said that he had no hesitation about working with a range of Hollywood writers and actors who he believes understand collaboration in a unique way. "And an actor who writes for actors can be a very good thing: They hear rhythms of a line in a way no one else can," DuBois said. "It's like a Kristen Wiig thing: A non-performer couldn't write like that."
DuBois, Braff and Second Stage's Carole Rothman all worked extensively with the actors to hone the material, particularly to make sure the farcical and sitcom elements -- and there are a number of them -- were leavened with more serious themes of spirituality and failed ambition. "We were kind of doing rehearsal and workshopping at the same time," Ritter told Culture Monster. "It was a little insane but a great way to work."
Braff, for his part, said that he actually wanted to take the lead part that went to Bartha. "Fortunately Carole Rothman talked me out of it. Trying to get a new play in shape while you're acting in it, you just have no perspective," he said. "But maybe I'll get to play the role somewhere else."
--Steven Zeitchik, from New York City
Photo: "All New People." Credit: Second Stage Theatre