The opening image is brilliant: a guy on his birthday with his head in a noose standing on a table next to a box of Cheerios. That guy is Zach Braff, playing Charlie Bloom, in his own off-Broadway play about his own Long Island beach summers… in the winter down time.
Zach is the star of the TV medical comedy series Scrubs and his own not inconsiderable indie movie Garden State, and in playing his own lead (he didn’t do so Off-Broadway last year), he may realise he forgot to write himself enough good speeches to keep Charlie fully in the picture.
His story of guilt and failure gets submerged in parallel fables of the other characters: the desperate estate agent, Emma (Eve Myles), who finds him strung up and all strung out; the dope head fireman, Myron (Paul Hilton), who answers an alarm call; and the hooker, Kim (Susannah Fielding), sent as a gift on a do-anything mission from Manhattan by his best pal, who owns the place.
Structurally, the 90-minute play is either awkward or audacious, I’m not sure which. Designer Alexander Dodge’s luxury beach house – cherry wood fittings, fancy modern art pieces – is scythed apart at three points with huge back story projections explaining the contemporary situations of Emma (a rape victim), Kim (ditto) and Myron (a disgraced drama teacher who hung out with the kids).
And then a fourth filmed sequence attempts to explain Charlie’s predicament, but it’s too late. The comedy to this point lacks the glue of his own existential angst, or any explanation for his moroseness. Despite all the attention of Peter DuBois’ direction, and all the good gags, the show doesn’t hang (sic) together or pack a big punch.
Still, I enjoyed it as an American lifestyle satire. Braff is an immensely likeable and alert comic performer in his goofy reactions and smart silver suit, and Eve Myles and Susannah Fielding are cheerfully inventive throughout, the latter snorting up a crucial pop tart crumb in a bizarre party scene.
Especially good is Paul Hilton as the wacky fireman, celebrating some sort of apotheosis as the snow falls outside – and then through the hole in the ceiling – leaning on the porch out front ready for anything now that he’s fondled the hooker’s breasts as a reward for bizarrely reciting the “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech from The Merchant of Venice.