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Theater Review: 'Asuncion' -- 2 stars

Justin Bartha, left, and Jesse Eisenberg in

Justin Bartha, left, and Jesse Eisenberg in "Asuncion." Credit: Justin Bartha, left, and Jesse Eisenberg in "Asuncion."

2 stars

It seems that any young film actor who writes a play, regardless of whether it's any good, can easily get it produced by a prestigious Off-Broadway company.

A few months ago, Second Stage produced Zach Braff's mediocre "All New People." Manhattan Theatre Club just presented Zoe Kazan's promising but undeveloped "We Live Here."

Now, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is presenting "Asuncion," an amateurish and unfocused play written by - and also starring - Jesse Eisenberg, best known for playing Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network." Justin Bartha from "The Hangover" is also a part of "Asuncion."

Eisenberg plays Edgar, a sensitive, politically conscious (he's proud to have visited Cambodia!) writer who lives with Vinny, a sleazy, pot-smoking professor of black studies (Bartha).

One day, Edgar's older brother stops by to drop off his hot new Filipina bride Asuncion (Camille Mana), saying that he needs to hide her a few days for unspecified reasons.

Vinny convinces Edgar that Asuncion must have worked in sex trafficking and that he ought to write a short story about her.

Eisenberg does show a knack for clever dialogue, particularly when Asuncion compares America to a pop song. But besides exposing the unconscious racism behind Edgar's PC values and studying the delicate friendship between Edgar and Vinny, too little occurs over the course of the play.

Eisenberg overplays his character's sincerity to the point of being irritating. Bartha, on the other hand, comes off as ridiculous as he jives to African drums.

If you go: "Asuncion" plays at the Cherry Lane Theatre through Nov. 27, 38 Commerce St., 212-352-3101, 


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