Jesse Eisenberg may be best known for his acting prowess but he can now add “playwright” to his resume. His first play, Asuncion, is premiering at the Cherry Lane Theater after going through a successful, positively reviewed week of preview performances. In it he plays Edgar, a young student consumed by white guilt, opposite The Hangover‘s Justin Baartha, whose character is similarly liberal and multiculturalism-obsessed. Their friendship is complicated by the arrival of Edgar’s new Filipino sister-in-law.
Eisenberg has been working on the play for a few years but admits that he briefly gave up on the project after Obama’s election, believing that the play was irrelevant now “that we live in a post-racial society,” he recalls. He resumed work on the play when he realized that this racial utopia would probably not materialize, at least not anytime soon.
In an interview with New York magazine, during which he admits that he doesn’t read the publication or really anything other than The New York Times, he also confessed to not being particularly interested in reading about his field, arts and culture, and his character reflects Eisenberg’s preferences. “I’m interested in all the things the characters are interested in: politics and all this other stuff. My degree in school was — well is, I haven’t finished yet — anthropology,” he says.
As much as I admire Eisenberg for his more intellectual pursuits, there’s no need to shun pop culture, which can also be quite brainy. And perhaps he should hold off being quite so pretentious until after he obtains his degree.