Time Out Theater Review: "Asuncion"
A new play written by "Social Network" star Jesse Eisenberg proves to be a subversive political comedy. Time Out New York contributing critic David Cote filed the following review.
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Most audiences know Jesse Eisenberg from his iconic portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network”: an arrogant, uptight nerd with intimacy issues. Now, in a satirical comedy he wrote and stars in called “Asuncion,” Eisenberg takes that character type, gives it a few twists, and plays it for big laughs.
They say that travel broadens the mind, but globetrotting appears to have retarded Edgar, a Gen Y emo-boy who once spent two days on layover in Cambodia. From this brush with the third world, Edgar has appointed himself anti-imperialist crusader and blogger.
Edgar lives in a shabby upstate New York apartment with Vinny, a white African American Studies professor and big-time stoner, played with just the right amount of smug complacency by Justin Bartha. Into their lives drops Asuncion, played by Camille Mana, the sweet, Filipina wife of Edgar’s stock-trader brother, played by Remy Auberjonois. Asuncion crashes with Edgar and Vinny for a couple of days, and our PC hero becomes convinced that his new sister-in-law is a mail-order bride and/or sex slave. This thin premise, sprung from Edgar’s borderline-racist assumptions and naive political pretensions, is the engine that drives the manic and very funny first act.
Unfortunately, the second act doesn’t deliver on this comic promise, as the playwright drives his characters into darker territory and can’t seem to ratchet up the stakes. Still, the crafty actors excel under Kip Fagan’s breezy, fast-moving direction, and Eisenberg is a joy to watch: spindly, jittery, cerebral but clueless about his own delusions.
We already knew that Eisenberg was an actor to watch, but now, with this clever and subversive political comedy, it’s clear he’s a playwright to follow, as well.