The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review

"I wrote Asuncion partly about myself, to explore myself. I know a lot of things, but I haven't had a lot of experiences. There's a great disconnection. I'm not fully formed yet"— Jesse Eisenberg in an interview with Robert Feldenberg in the New Jersey paper The Record
Jesse Eisenberg and Camille Mana
(Photo credit: Sandra Coudert)
Jesse Eisenberg's above quoted comment that he wrote Asuncion which is now having its world premiere at the Cherry Lane Theater to explore what he sees as his not yet fully formed self begs an addendum: His first play is very much the work of a still not fully formed playwright.

Fully or not so fully formed, there are signs of talent on display in the play produced under the auspices of the always adventurous Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Too bad then that it's based on a plot device that strains credulity and that the main characters' relationship lacks clarity.

Eisenberg wrote the leading role of Edgar for himself and he is indeed terrific as the liberal, anti-imperialism blogger who's as yet found no takers for his pieces in the traditional publishing world. However, since his richly nuanced portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that won him a Best Actor Oscar proved that he can transcend the Woody Allen-like, smart but insecure, nervous nebbish, it's disappointing that he hasn't used his writing to stretch his range as an actor. For the most Part, Edgar is mostly another tried and tested role.

The good news is that, in addition to Eisenberg's spot-on portrayal of the nerdy and basically clueless, go-nowhere wannabe sensitive journalist, the play's other three characters also benefit from outstanding performances. To add to Ascension's assets, it's crisply directed by Kip Fagan and staged with excellent production values.

To get back to the problematic plot. The action revolves around Edgar and Vinny (Justin Bartha) who was Edgar's teaching assistant for a while during his undergraduate days. Somehow, the two men have become roommates in an off-campus apartment in Binghamton (home of the state system's Harper College) even though only Vinny, who's doing some teaching while working on a PhD in Black Studies, is paying the rent.

John McDermott's cluttered apartment where the story unfolds couldn't be more perfect. The problem is that there's little to clue us in on Vinny's reliance on getting high. The fact that both Edgar and Vinny are obviously lonely just isn't enough to make us understand their relationship. Though it's not unheard of for white scholars to take up and teach Black Studies, it's hardly a common or easy career path, and in this case it seems mostly a device to establish Vinny as well as Edgar as an obvious liberal without prejudice against people of color.

Speaking of devices, here's where we come to the play's biggest structural problem. To give the stoner and slacker duo setup a dramatic twist, the playwright has moved a temporary third occupant in with them. This new roommate is Asuncion (Camille Mana), the sexy Filipina bride of Edgar's older brother Stuart (Remy Auberjonos) met and fell in love with via an internet website.

Since Stuart is a prosperous Wall Street trader who disdains his kid brother's life style, why in the world would he want or need to have Asuncion hole up in Binghampton while he sees to some never explained business in New York? Asuncion doesn't clarify the reason she agreed to stay with her new brother-in-law either. To be fair, her presence does make life in the grungy apartment more interesting, Yet, when Stuart finally does explain why he was more or less hiding Asuncion in Binghampton, that explanation doesn't make it any less incredible and contrived.

Despite the credibility stretches, which include a particularly under-motivated acid trip interlude, there are some amusing scenes once the peppy Ms. Mana enters the picture — and the Woody Allenish Edgar's assumptions about his sister-in-law interestingly escalate to the point of turning the farcical situation into something quite a bit darker (and better). That's when Edgar is somewhat more Zuckerberg than Woody Allen. (As Stuart inelegantly but pointedly describes the effect of his wrong-headed assumptions on Asuncion's emotions "whatever you did to her this week, however, you made her feel, makes you the worst kind of white prick there is. Because you call yourself a pussy, when you're actually a prick.")

The way the apartment becomes neater as the characters interactions become messier, nicely underscores the play's more meaningful possibilities. So does the ambiguous, quiet ending.

Asuncion rounds out a month that has brought us a trio of new plays with authors in their late '20s or just passing their 30th birthdays (We Live Here by actor-playwright Zoe Kazan and Sons of the Prophet by Stephen Karam). Karam's Sons of the Prophet is undoubtedly the most compelling and mature of the three. But Asuncion is the only one by and with a genuine movie star. As such it's bound delight Eisenberg's 2900-plus Twitter followers as well as the groupies keeping up-to-date on all things Jesse at a fan web site. The chance to see JE up close and personal is likely to flll every seat of the attractively renovated but still intimate West Village theater throughout its limited run.


Asuncion by Jesse Eisenberg
Directed by Kip Fagan
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg (Edgar), Remy Auberjonois (Stuart), Justin Bartha (Vinny) and Camille Mana (Assuncion)
Sets: John McDermott
Costumes: Jessica Pabst
Lighting: Ben Stanton
Sound: Bart Fassbender
Stage Manager: Melissa Mae Gregus
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes with one intermission
Rattlestick theater at the Cherry Lane Theatre 38 Commerce Street 212- 279-6200
From 10/12/11; opening 10/27/11; closing 12/18/11
. Tuesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, Sunday at 3pm.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at October 22nd press preview
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Asuncion
  • I disagree with the review of Asuncion
  • The review made me eager to see Asuncion
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

Visit Curtainup's Blog Annex
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
Anything Goes Cast Recording Anything Goes Cast Recording
Our review of the show

Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show
< Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free

Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free


©Copyright 2011, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from