You think you know Zach Braff.
After all, he was the star of the frantic comedy “Scrubs” from 2001 to 2010 and if that didn’t get him cult status, then his droll turn in the 2004 movie “Garden State” did.
Yet you still don’t know him. But you might get another big piece of the puzzle by catching the Florida premiere of his first effort as a playwright “All New People” being produced by Zoetic Stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center tonight through Jan. 27.
“I have a dark sense of humor that really wasn’t on the TV show most people know me for,” Braff says in a telephone interview. “It’s not something that was TV network friendly. Things I’ve done on my own are hopefully funny but you can dip a little darker.”
“All New People” is dark humor all right. The comedy opens with the lead character’s suicide being interrupted by a series of wacky visitors, all with hidden traumas and not-so-hidden quirks of their own. Last year the show opened in New York before moving on to the United Kingdom.
Here’s how Braff explained himself to us in a brief chat:
Q. To have mostly critical acclaim on your first time out as a playwright, that’s kind of rare.
A. It was unbelievable. I am most known for being on a TV comedy so I knew there would be some scrutiny coming my way, but I didn’t know we’d get the kind of great reviews like from the ‘New York Times’ and most importantly from the public. We sold out almost every show. And London was insane. I thought we’d get a little studio space. And we get the Duke of York’s Theatre, the most beautiful space in the West End. We sold out the whole run. We went to Manchester and we’re in a friggin’ opera house with 2,000 seats and we sold out the whole week. And then Glasgow we sold out a 2,000 seat theater. It is such an honor for me that this think keeps going and going.
Q. What do you think the take-away of “All New People” is?
A. I think the take-away is the power of people being saved by love and friendship. Like in “Garden State [the 2004 comedy-drama written by, directed by and starring Braff] where my character is rescued by falling in love for the first time. I’m a romantic at heart. In the end it’s all about how you loved and the friend you have.
Q. You’re coming here to SoFlo to see it right? It’s been almost a year since a production has been staged. What do you think that will be like?
A. I can’t wait to come down and see others produce the play. The play has interwoven into it four short films that reveal back story. So [Zoetic Stage] is not only putting on a play but they are forced to execute four short films within the play. What a cool life experience it is to show up and have that experience of seeing the show with actors I don’t know. I don’t even know what the set looks like.
Q. I read that you were a theater geek from early on. True?
A. My father used to do a lot of community theater in Livingston New Jersey. It’s just a half hour outside of Manhattan. He would take us to see everything - this was at the height of the Andrew Lloyd Webber revolution – even things way beyond my understanding: Sondheim. I wasn’t a kid who was into sports at all. So I went to Stagedoor Manor, which is the premiere acting camp for kids. I went there for two summers and did their musicals and performed. It was there that I was first scouted by an agent at the age of 13.
Q. Black comedy, a sort of twisted way of looking at things is a theme in your work, isn’t it?
A. Laughing at tragedy and being so down you have to laugh at the absurdity of it all – that’s very me. I remember being in a limo on the way to a relative’s funeral. Someone cracked a joke and we all started laughing. It was such a relief from all the tension and sadness. I think that’s a theme to my work too, finding humor in sadness. It’s something everyone can relate to.
IF YOU GO:
“All New People”
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; 4 p.m. on Sundays (Saturday, Jan. 12 at 3 p.m.)
Where: Carnival Studio Theater, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Cost: $40 and $45
Contact: 305-949-6722 or ArshtCenter.org
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