Photo by Don Kellogg

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I tend to agree with Roma a lot.  When I say Roma, I assume you all know that I mean Roma Torre of NY1.  She's a bell-weather theater critic who tells it like it is and avoids most of the drama (figuratively, not literally!).  Having heard her mixed review, I thought it worth a visit to see Asuncion for myself.  And I did just that this past weekend.

Jesse Eisenberg (you all know him - he's that Facebook guy... er... well... the guy who played the Facebook guy in that movie about Facebook) wrote a play (he's written several) and it's being presented by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at the Cherry Lane Theatre.  Mr. Eisenberg, not being a shy actor, also stars in the play.  I'm going to divide this review up into two parts: Acting and Construction. 

Acting:  Bravo Mr. Eisenberg for playing Edgar, quite possibly the most neurotic and obsessed young man on the stage in the entire city - on Broadway or off!  Safe to say Jesse may just have a minor connection to the roots of this character's tendencies to have both invented him and brought him to life with such aplomb.  Justin Bartha brilliantly portrays Vinny, Edgar's one-time college TA, now roommate, friend, and ultimate protector.  Mr. Bartha, uber-sexy with his shirt off and on portrays Vinny in the life one might categorize as a terminally liberal and lazy academic.  He's a professor now, smokes pot, loves to flirt with women, occasionally writes music, pushes social boundaries, lives in a run-down apartment in what appears to be a not-so-nice area of town and, did I mention, smokes a lot of pot?  Along comes the coy, mysterious, and bubbly Filapina bride of Edgar's brother (Remy Auberjonois), the titular character, Asuncion, played with complete and non-stop effervescence by Camille Mana.  Solid acting all around - some of it physical, most of it darkly funny.

Construction:  I believe Mr. Eisenberg wrote this play before he became famous for his role in the blockbuster hit, The Social Network.  That would mean he wrote this play in his early 20's.  That's young.  Even for someone as smart, insightful, and as wickedly talented as Mr. Eisenberg.  Clearly he has an ear for sharp dialogue, an eye for physical comedy, and a nose for sniffing out a joke in just about any situation.  What hit me about this work is that it tried to cover too much ground.  African nationalism, McDonalds, dumb Americans , drugs, liberalism, the sex-slave trade and mail order bride trade in Southeast Asia... and the list goes on.  An exploration of any one of these topics could consume a good 90 minutes each and we only had about 120 for the entire bundle.  To further complicate matters - we opened up all these doors in Act I and had very little time to resolve most of them in Act II.  Frankly, I was altogether disappointed in the actual reason as to the presence of Asuncion.  It was a weak and frankly came so late that no time could be spent even trying to repair it.

Mr. Eisenberg certainly has a burgeoning writing career ahead of him.  And even if that has a few ups and downs along the way, his acting chops and endearingly handsome looks and affable awkwardness will certainly carry him along. I'm sure we'll see and hear more of this rising star very soon.  For now, if you can get a reasonably priced ticket - head down to the Cherry Lane Theater on Commerce Street in the always-cozy West Village and take in a performance of Asuncion before Mr. Eisenberg gets too famous inventing some new social networking tool... oh wait... that's not him!