Asuncion

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    October 1, 2011

    Review by Tulis McCall

    Aside from the fact that there are a few gaps in the plot through which you could easily drive a large truck, this is a great show. And how refreshing to have an actor, who is known best for one movie, return to the stage and fly without a net. Eisenberg alone will bring people to this show. They will leave, however, thinking more about his play than about his movie. Nifty!

    Vinny (Justin Bartha) and Edgar (Jesse Eisenberg) live together. Vinny was the Teaching Assistant for a class that Edgar took a few years back. Vinny has a Masters in African Studies. Edgar has plans. He is not acting on any of the plans, but by gosh he has them. He also has the memory of time he spent in Cambodia. According to Edgar he was there to get a story because he is a journalist. No one else appears to share that view. As a matter of fact no one shares his view on much of anything. This doesn’t slow Edgar down one iota. This makes him charming and annoying all in one shot.

    How they ended up as roommates – well that is not exactly correct because Vinny sleeps in the one bed and Edgar sleeps in the beanbag chair in the living room – is not clear. You get the feeling that Edgar came over one night for a party, smoked a little weed, and never left. They are not romantically involved, although one wonders if Edgar would like that. What is clear is that Vinny is the Alpha Dog and Edgar is grateful to have a roof over his head, no matter how much groveling it takes.

    Actually, groveling is one of the things that Edgar does best. When a local gang grabs him off his bike, whacks him around and steals his money, Edgar is grateful he wasn’t carrying his cell phone. That’s the kind of guy he is. So when his brother Stuart (Remy Auberjonois) shows up strictly for the purpose of taking advantage of Edgar – well it all works out just fine.

    What Stuart wants is to leave his new Filipino wife, Asuncion, with Vinny and Edgar for a few days, with only “we’re not in any danger,” as a sort of excuse. Edgar is totally against this because Vinny will be. But Vinny, it turns out ,is not against it at all. He would LOVE to have a new playmate.

    As Asuncion’s stay stretches into a week, she and Vinny become BFFs, which makes Edgar feel demoted. Feelings of rejection turn themselves into a new writing project that doesn’t go so well. Not well at all.

    What does go well is Eisenberg’s writing and every single actors work. While the plot could use some surgery, these characters are precise and unpredictable. Asuncion takes more suspension of belief than the two men, but that’s where the wiggy plot derails Ms. Mana. It is as though she is being asked to pat her head and rub her stomach at the same time. Mana is a fine actor but this duality is too much to ask. Auberjonois does not have enough time on the stage in this production, but he makes the most of every second.

    Bartha and Eisenberg are a fine team. Bartha is a chameleon of an actor. His work here is so different from his role as Max in Lend Me A Tenor that I didn’t recognize him. There he was an adorable nerd of still waters. Here he is a deluded small town academic who is on a l-o-n-g layover. Eisenberg is spot on as a self-conscious young man who is so smart he can see the pointlessness of a task before he begins it. So he chooses the wiser, shorter path and does nothing. All in all Asuncion gives us a refreshing voice in an unusual package. This is like having a Secret Santa and getting a present you actually like.

    Write on, Eisenberg, write on!

    (Tulis McCall)

    "Doesn’t dig deeply enough into the relationship between Vinny and Edgar to let us overlook the flimsiness of its plot."
    Charles Isherwood for New York Times

    "While the point of “Asuncion” is mundane and breaks no new ground, it spotlights Eisenberg’s comic gifts as actor and author."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "Not as funny as it should be."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "Funny and insightful character study of three disparate people seeking to connect with each other."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "Insightful, often-hilarious portrait (by Jesse Eisenberg) of one of the most pretentious, irritating and insecure individuals you'll ever encounter."
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "A modest four-character comedy."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "Jesse Eisenberg’s Asuncion shows promise"
    David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter

    "A sitcom plot that goes nowhere."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Hollywood Reporter - Variety