Even while he continues to be popular in Hollywood, Jesse Eisenberg keeps returning Off-Broadway to appear in plays he's written himself.
He's back again with "The Spoils," which is being produced by the New Group in midtown. Joining Eisenberg in the cast is Kunal Nayyar ("The Big Bang Theory").
Following two underwhelming plays by Eisenberg seen in the West Village (including one where he co-starred with Vanessa Redgrave), "The Spoils" is his best work to date, indicating that he is starting to develop as a playwright.
It is built around an unbelievably unsympathetic main character. Ben (Eisenberg) is an overprivileged, lazy film school dropout who has no need to work thanks to boatloads of family money. He instead spends his time smoking pot and harshly criticizing his roommate (Nayyar), who is originally from Nepal and currently in business school.
Even if the play is more of a character study than a narrative, "The Spoils" is a strangely compelling look at young New Yorkers struggling to achieve their professional ambitions and hold on to their personal identities and values.
As directed by New Group artistic director Scott Elliott, the scenes have an unusually naturalistic flow, especially when everyone is joking around over beer and marijuana.
Eisenberg gives a highly invested, hyperactive performance that stresses Ben's self-concerned mentality while adding enough subtlety to suggest some self-loathing.
If you go: "The Spoils" plays through June 28 at the Pershing Square Signature Center. 480 West 42nd Street, thenewgroup.com.