Friday, October 21, 2011

Asuncion *

Jesse Eisenberg's comedy, now at the Cherry Lane in a Rattlestick production, is the third play by a young actor turned playwright that I have seen since June. The others were Zach Braff's "All New People" at Second Stage and Zoe Kazan's "We Live Here" at Manhattan Theatre Club. Of the three, Zach Braff was the most successful. His play was no masterpiece, but was at least a guilty pleasure. The Kazan play landed with a thud. Now along comes Eisenberg's play, which falls somewhere in between. Unlike the other two actor/playwrights, who did not appear in their plays, Eisenberg wrote the showiest role for himself. He plays Edgar, a wildly frenetic self-styled journalist, a hanger-on in an upstate college town, who never stops talking and whose capacity for self-delusion and misunderstanding is limitless. He shares the apartment of Vinny (Justin Bartha, who starred in Braff's play), his former teaching assistant in a Black Studies course, whom he worships and who treats him like his manservant. Edgar's older brother Stuart (Remy Auburgonois) makes a surprise visit from New York with his new Filipina bride Asuncion (Camille Mana) in tow and asks them to let her stay with them for the weekend without explaining why. The disequilibrium brought on by her presence drives the action. The character of Edgar is written so broadly that he is almost a cartoon character. For a few minutes, it was fun to see Eisenberg's Edgar, but it became tiresome very quickly. Bartha captures both the charm and the sinister edge to Vinny. Mana makes the best of an ill-defined role. There are some funny lines along the way, but not enough to hide the play's substantial flaws. John McDermott's set is appropriately seedy for a walk-up off-campus apartment and Jessica Pabst's costumes are fine. Kip Fagan's direction is blameless.

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes plus intermission

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awww . . . that's disappointing. I LOVE Jesse Eisenberg as an actor so I'm sorry to hear that his abilities as a playwright don't measure up . . . yet!