Hollywood actor Jesse Eisenberg is also a playwright. His 2011 play ASUNCION was staged shortly after he received and Academy Award nomination for best Supporting Actor in 2010. The 2011 play concerns a couple of guys. An aspiring journalist named Vinny has moved-in with his African studies teacher--a guy named Edgar. One day Edgar’s brother shows-up, announces that he’s married and asks if his wife Asuncion can crash at their place for a few days. Relations between the two guys are compromised by the woman in a play which makes its way to the Alchemist Theatre this month courtesy of Artistic Director Jake Brockman’s FORGE THEATER. I had a chance to ask a few questions Brockman, who directs the play.
Most people know Jesse Eisenberg as a Hollywood actor. (The Social Network, Batman v Superman) Turns out he’s also a playwright. How did you become aware of his comedy ASUNCION?
I think I was just as surprised as anyone else to find that Jesse Eisenberg was a playwright. As a producer I’m constantly looking for productions that I believe can be done on a budget with a small ensemble cast. As I was looking at scripts I noticed Eisenberg’s name and was intrigued enough to it a read.
I don’t recall seeing open auditions listed on Facebook for the show. I recognize Joe Picchetti, but the rest of the cast appears relatively new. What was casting like?
In June, I had a casting call that went out for three male actors. However, this play is dependent on the casting of Asuncion. Asuncion is a young Filipina woman, and I was worried that through an open audition I wouldn’t be able to find the actor I needed. Luckily Erin was highly recommended to me, and after meeting with her I knew she would be perfect for the role.
The script seems to be riding an edge between buddy comedy and serious social commentary. What has it been like dealing with that dichotomy in rehearsal?
It can be therapeutic to laugh at the things that make us feel uncomfortable. This rehearsal process has brought us a lot of those laughs and a lot of great conversations from that laughter. Hopefully the audience will be able to experience the same thing when seeing this production.
This seems to be a very formal comedy about people being very informal and social. It always fascinates me how a cast can make something as intrinsically artificial as a stage and make it feel like...an apartment where a couple of guys live. How much of your rehearsal work focuses on setting the right atmosphere?
The atmosphere in the room is the most important part of rehearsal to me. I always try to create an environment that is without ego so we can figure out what our show is together. This cast has thrived in this environment and is constantly living in the moment and building off of each other’s ideas. Because of this the comedy is that much more sincere and the drama is significantly heightened.
Forge Theater’s production of Asuncion runs Nov. 9 - 18 at the Alchemist Theatre on 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. For ticket reservations, visit the show’s page on Brown Paper Tickets.