When I walk down the steps at 404 Ludlow Avenue into the Clifton Performance Theatre, I’m always wondering whats waiting for me behind the door. These inventive folks – both The Clifton Players and Untethered Theatre Company – use their space differently each time they produce a show and almost always the plays are mind-blowing in their content and quality.
ALL NEW PEOPLE is no exception. This is an Untethered Theatre show; this is the “younger” group (though not as young as the children’s theatre that Artistic Director Carol Brammer oversees during the afternoons and summers) and their taste for hip, sometimes raunchy, and usually darkly funny material is consistent. This play is written by Zach Braff, star of the television show “Scrubs,” and it is full of hilarious dialogue, great one liners, and some great pop culture references. But it’s also thoughtful without being heavy-handed. I enjoyed the opening night production very much.
Carter Bratton stars as “Charlie,” a man who is ready to end his life. He’s interrupted by “Emma,” played by Leah Strasser, a British ex-patriot who rents out beach houses and boy, is she surprised to find Charlie in this one. Her friend, “Myron”, (Nathan Neorr) a local fireman shows up as does Mindy Heithaus’s “Kim,” a “gift” from Charlie’s wealthy friend and owner of the beach house. To tell you more would give too much away; let’s just say that these four “all new people” get to know one another and so do we. Of course, we also have the benefit of four very well produced video segments that show us the backstory of these characters between scenes.
Bratton is at his best when he’s sarcastic, exasperated, and angry. He has opportunity to show that but also gets to be more of an everyman in this role; he brings a much needed moral center to the show, which will seem an ironic statement once you’ve seen the play. Strasser is quickly becoming the most versatile young actress in town. She can play foul (and is always hilarious when she does) but in this show, she brings a sweetness, a sophistication, and worldliness to her role and has a perfect British accent. I told her after the show that I’m beginning to run out of adjectives for her performances as they continue to get better and better in new and different ways. Mindy Heithaus, who has given us sad vulnerability in RED LIGHT WINTER and sad, quiet strength in THE RIVERSIDE gives us ditzy, slutty, and not-so-sad in this role. She’s a talented actress and very funny here.
New to this company is Nathan Neorr. There’s something quite remarkable about his presence on stage. His character is darker than the rest in some ways and Neorr somehow conveys that consistently with his eyes and his tone. I really enjoyed watching him work. Also new to the space is director Jared Doren, who takes full advantage of the intimate basement theatre and has his actors moving about – but not too much – to keep the 90 minute production interesting. He also reigns in his actors when they need it but also gives them the freedom to play broad in the comedic moments. There’s a reason he’s one of the most popular directors in town and it’s not just his attention to detail.
The video work, produced by a class at NKU, is stunning at times. There’s some really nice animation and special effects in one of the segments that I was especially impressed by and the cameos by other Clifton regulars Paul Morris, Carol Brammer, and John Vanderplough, and Mike Dennis) are fun and interesting. The set is great and I love it when the actors are raised on a platform because it helps the unfortunate folks seated behind my tall frame see the action better.
ALL NEW PEOPLE is a very well done contemporary comedy and between this and the previous night’s SPEECH AND DEBATE, I’ve laughed more this week than I have in some time. There have been some great dramas on stages in town lately; now its time for a great comedy. This is one, for certain. You should go see ALL NEW PEOPLE . . . you’ll laugh but you might even be a little moved.
ALL NEW PEOPLE runs through November 30th at the Clifton Performance Theatre in the Gaslight District. The doors open thirty minutes before show time so don’t be too early. For tickets, click here.