Review by Steven Babyak
3 June 2015
If you’re looking for a fast-paced comedy that flies by, you’re in for a treat with The Spoils. Ben (Jesse Eisenberg) lounges around all day in his fancy apartment, chatting with his roommate, drinking, and doing absolutely nothing except occasionally working on his film. Under the direction of Scott Elliott, Ben truly shows what a procrastinator he is. He sits with his feet up on the couch and wears the same white t-shirt all day/evening long. His dad paid for his expensive apartment, so Ben has all the time in the world to do whatever he wants. He confides his deepest thoughts in his roommate Kalyan (Kunal Nayyar) and has a “best friend” kind of relationship with him. Their friends joke that they argue like an old married couple. Kalyan comes from Nepal and has received a scholarship at the NYU Stern School of Business. He’s dating Reshma (Annapurna Sriram) and we immediately see how Ben and Reshma don’t see eye-to-eye.
When Ben runs into his elementary school friend Ted (Michael Zegen), he finds out that Ted is engaged to Ben’s only true love back from school, Sarah (Erin Darke). Ben laments how the world is unfair when he realizes he can’t marry his crush. Ted is working on Wall Street with a successful career and Sarah is teaching math to people who have been arrested. It’s quite fun to watch the interaction with Ben and Ted, as Ted is dressed in more expensive clothes and acts like a smooth car salesman, whereas Ben doesn’t have any job at all. Ben says working on Wall Street is boring, but we see how Ben secretly wants attention from everyone else and feels like the whole world is passing him by (as others get married, go to graduate school, get high paying jobs, etc).
Soon everyone gets together for a dinner party at Ben’s apartment. Everyone else is dressed up, but Ben is still wearing the same white t-shirt to dinner. He truly embodies his character and shows you what a slacker he is. Meanwhile, Kalyan starts dinner with a Powerpoint presentation of all the food they’re about to enjoy (Kalyan loves making a Powerpoint on any topic imaginable.) Some fireworks result (quite understandably since Ben has a knack for always saying the wrong things and pushing peoples’ buttons); everyone except Ben decides to go out drinking for the night.
We see the film that Ben’s been working on in the second act when he screens it for Sarah. The popcorn scene elicited hearty laughter from the audience. It’s comical to watch how the older well-dressed lady shoos her dog away from eating in the garbage, and we see the homeless man laying right next to the food as well. Some surprises come out about the film, and this causes a clash between Ben and Sarah. As his world starts to fall apart even further, Ben continues to alienate the people who are closest to him in his life, one at a time. Screaming and fights follow, as all the tension under the surface boils over. Jesse Eisenberg gives a five-star performance; his character will stay in your mind long after the show is over.
"An engrossingly acted, impeccably staged production from the New Group."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"An unpleasant play can still be satisfying. But an aimless one? Not so much."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"Speedily directed by Scott Elliott, this New Group production barrels through, and the young cast navigates the dense dialogue and snarky remarks with expert ease."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"In Eisenberg’s intensely awkward performance, Ben is both repellent and riveting. He’s a self-dramatizing tragedy: a terror and a pity."
Adam Feldman for Time Out New York
"Eisenberg plays his twitchy, overbearing character to unsurprising perfection, but it's hard not to wish he would go in a different direction in his future writing endeavors."
Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter
"The cast is terrific and director Scott Elliott (also the artistic director of The New Group) finds it in his heart to extend some compassion to Eisenberg’s perfect little beast."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
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