Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The New Group is on A Roll

To tell you the truth, The New Group has always been pretty hit or miss for me. But this 20th anniversary season has made up for all the misses with Sticks and Bones, Rasheeda Speaking, and now, The Spoils, Jesse Eisenberg's third play.
L to R: Jesse Eisenberg, Erin Darke, Michael Zegen, Annapurna Sriram, Kunal Nayyar
Photo credit: Monique Carboni
Eisenberg has once again written himself a character who is spoiled, sexist, racist, and thinks he's superior to everyone. That probably doesn't sound like a guy you want to spend two hours with, but it's impossible to look away from Eisenberg's fidgety performance, even while you cringe at the words coming out of his mouth.

Ben (Eisenberg) lives in a nice apartment (Derek McLane's set makes me jealous that I don't live there) paid for by his father. He was kicked out of film grad school, so now he spends his days working on his movies although it doesn't seem like he's ever actually made one. He lets his Nepalese roommate, Kalyan (Kunal Nayyar), stay rent free, but he treats him terribly. According to the program, Kalyan is based on Eisenberg's Nepalese friend and I hope Eisenberg treats him better in real life. It's hard not to wonder if Eisenberg is trying to ease his own guilt with his writing, but I'm not here to review the person, just the play, which is getting an excellent production directed by Scott Elliott.

Ben runs into an old classmate from grade school, Ted (Michael Zegen, mastering the art of the awkward laugh), who it turns out is marrying Ben's old crush, Sarah (Erin Darke). Ben invites Ted, Sarah, and Kalyan's girlfriend, Reshma (Annapurna Sriram), for a dinner party. The writing is sharp and funny and actually sounds like how young people talk, especially when spoken by this fine cast of actors. You might find yourself simultaneously laughing and sighing in recognition.

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