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'The Spoils' review: Jesse Eisenberg in witty, serious comedy

Jesse Eisenberg, left, and Kunal Nayyar star in

Jesse Eisenberg, left, and Kunal Nayyar star in "The Spoils." Credit: Monique Carboni

Jesse Eisenberg, who lost me in 2013 by wasting Vanessa Redgrave in a messy play called "The Revisionist," has wooed me back with "The Spoils." On the surface, this terrific, fast-talking, quick-witted serious comedy could be seen as just another lost-boy stoner journey about a rich would-be filmmaker obsessed with childhood eroticism and tribal dominance.

But Eisenberg, whom the world best knows as a movie actor, stars in his own beautifully written play, directed by Scott Elliott, about five New Yorkers we think we have seen many times in plays before but, ultimately, we have not.

Eisenberg plays Ben, a needy, tightly wired, often cruel film-school dropout whose parents pay for his high-rise apartment. He practically adopts Kalyan, a business student from Nepal (the touching and droll Kunal Nayyar from "The Big Bang Theory"). Friction about gender, ethnicity and life choices heats up with the introduction of Kalyan's high-functioning girlfriend, an Indian doctor (Annapurna Sriram), plus Ben's grammar-school buddies (Erin Darke and Michael Zegen). Eisenberg writes funny, but he is also a real storyteller -- moody and dangerous and even loving.

 

WHERE The New Group, Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St.

INFO $25-$95; 212-279-4200; thenewgroup.org

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