Alpha Psi Omega premiered its fully student-produced play of the spring semester, “All New People” on March 6 in the Adler Theater. After five weeks of work from auditions through five performances, the show closed Tuesday after selling out.
“This was all done by students,” senior Warren Dolan, making his directorial premiere, said. “The set was designed and constructed by students, the lighting was designed by students and that’s pretty amazing … sitting in the audience opening night and watching everything we had worked on come to life was just mind-blowing.”
"All New People" was written in 2011 by Zach Braff, actor, producer and director most commonly recognized for his performances in “Garden State,” “Wish I Was Here” and “Scrubs." The play, which is the first play written by Braff, tells the story of four complete strangers meeting for this first time under extreme circumstances.
“With a story like this — you don’t want to cut it up. You just want to dive into it and learn about the characters. It’s so concisely written and everything is written for a purpose — nothing is just added exposition,” Dolan said.
The audience is first introduced to Charlie (Jack Waller), Braff’s reclusive protagonist, as he is placing an extension chord around his neck. As he climbs up on a tiny stepladder, it becomes clear to the audience that Charlie is struggling with a deep inner conflict. This act never comes to fruition, however, as Emma (Julie Roccanova), a quirky Brit working as a real estate agent, barges into the scene. Halting Charlie’s suicide attempt, Emma’s entrance serves as clever comic relief, but leaves the audience searching for answers as the two strangers meet for the first time.
“The themes that the play conveys about being vulnerable and opening up to people, or even trying not to open up to people — these are things that we struggle with every single day and the characters in the play find themselves in extreme situations that we may not be able to relate to directly, but we can relate to the inner struggle,” Dolan said.
These two strangers’ lives collide as Emma’s friend Myron (Nick D’Ambrosia), a brash firefighter with troubles of his own, comes to make a delivery, and Charlie receives a surprise delivery as well: Kim (Liz Gonzalez), a ditzy prostitute pursuing a music career. Caught together in an extravagant Long Beach Island bungalow, the four strangers experience what it’s like meeting all these new people for the first time.
“It’s just kind of remarkable how over the course of 90 minutes they [the characters] go from being complete strangers to one of the closer facets in each other’s lives,” Dolan said. “That’s pretty incredible and close to real life. We all have close friends we can trust, but at the same time you can meet someone and sometimes there’s just a connection and you don’t mind opening up.”
With only four cast members, it would be easy for a performance of “All New People” to drag. However, Dolan’s production kept audience members engaged with ease. From the chic LBI flat, designed by Stephanie Gonzalez, to the four very talented actors who gave their characters depth and managed to keep up with Braff’s witty writing, it seems no surprise that the show sold out as it was coming to the end of its run.
“I would say it was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had — working with the cast, working with the production team. We made this happen together,” Dolan said proudly.