Jesse Eisenberg in The Spoils, Trafalgar Studios. Photo: Oliver Rosser
Jesse Eisenberg's background is in theatre - acting and more recently writing - but I've only ever seen him on the big screen so I was naturally curious about his play The Spoils.
It's set in the modern Manhattan apartment of Ben (Jesse Eisenberg) a drinking, weed-smoking wannabe film-maker from a privileged background. He shares the apartment with Kalyan (Kunal Nayyar) who is a Nepalese immigrant studying business on a scholarship.
At one end of the spectrum Ben is the sort of show off that casually feigns indifference at the other he is narcissistic. He won't take rent from Kalyan but it isn't an altruistic move, it is something he does to elevate his own status, something he can hold over him or throw back at him. Kalyan is someone he can parade, show off about, look down on and just occasionally confide in. Us Brits would call Ben a tosser or a C-word - if we used it - Americans would probably call him a jerk.
When Ben discovers that his school crush Sarah (Katie Brayben) is going to marry straight-laced banker Ted (Alfie Allen), he is determined to woo her away from him.
Like most characters from this mould, Ben's behaviour is all puff, part of the wall he's built to protect himself not just from the outside world but also from himself. He constantly seeks approval while rebutting it. He seeks connection and yet pushes it away. The more desperate he gets the more painful and cringe-worthy his behaviour becomes.
At first the script crackles with a quick-fired wit tinged with black humour but as Ben spirals downwards, so the humour gets darker until you reach a point when it difficult to laugh any more and it is at that moment you start to pity him and how messed up he really is.