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The Spoils: Theater review by Adam Feldman
Jesse Eisenberg is a famous actor who has been writing and starring in Off Broadway plays, but this work is far from a vanity project. It’s not just that the plays themselves are good, and getting progressively better; it’s that he seems almost perversely intent on making audiences hate him. Ben, the rich New York idler he portrays in The Spoils, is his most deplorable creation yet. He’s a liar, a user, a phony, a jerk, a slob, a bigot and a brat; but he’s also lonely, and sometimes funny, and his addiction to weed may be a smoke screen for mental illness.
The cast of Scott Elliott’s razor-sharp New Group production is stellar: The Big Bang Theory's Kunal Nayyar as Kalyan, Ben’s kindly Nepalese roommate; Annapurna Sriram as Kalyan’s ambitious girlfriend; Michael Zegen as Ted, a childhood friend of Ben’s; and the empathetic Erin Darke as Ted’s fiancée, Sarah, whom Ben has a crush on and about whom he’s had a grotesque scatological dream. When Ben’s crap inevitably hits the fan, The Spoils counterbalances it with decency. 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
Pershing Square Signature Center (Off Broadway). By Jesse Eisenberg. Dir. Scott Elliott. With Eisenberg, Kunal Nayyar. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam