Jesse Eisenberg's Happy Talk has locked in Susan Sarandon and Marin Ireland for lead roles.
The new play, described as "hysterical and devastating," was previously titled Yea, Sister! It reveals the absurd lengths to which people will go to save themselves in the name of saving others.
Happy Talk will feature Sarandon as Lorraine, who deals with her dying mother, miserable husband and estranged daughter while playing the role of Bloody Mary in her local Jewish Community Center's production of South Pacific. Ireland will play her mother's home aide, Serbian immigrant Ljuba, who seeks Lorraine's help finding a husband. But the new role of matchmaker proves a challenging one for the saint of the suburbs.
Scott Elliott, artistic director of The New Group, will stage the production at the off-Broadway company's Signature Center home. Previews begin April 30 in advance of a May 16 official opening, with the limited engagement scheduled to run through June 2. Additional casting will be announced.
The project reunites The New Group and Elliott with Eisenberg after his 2015 play The Spoils, in which he also starred with Kunal Nayyar. Other plays by the actor produced in New York include 2013's The Revisionist, in which he shared the stage with Vanessa Redgrave, and 2011's Asuncion in which he starred with Justin Bartha.
Missed this news from like a week ago! Hoping to get tickets. I saw The Spoils, at the New Group, and loved it. As for Sarandon - idk if she's done any stage work since '09? I see she's trying to get some cred in the Film/TV/Stage thread !
Saw this last night. Pretty good - but have to agree with the reviews, it’s uneven. Jesse Eisenberg’s play feels more like an early draft; a lot of potential with the themes and situation, but I couldn’t help thinking of ways it needed editing and restructuring.
Susan Sarandon plays a tireless suburban housewife with a diva complex thanks to her storied community theater experience which has expanded her ego with grand notions of artistic relevance. She’s an aging woman who can’t stand that she’s losing her domestic audience (her mother, her husband, her daughter). It’s a role that could’ve easily been played as high camp, but Su is rather dialed back. There are a few darker, gloomy moments where she is most effective, and she has great chemistry with the show’s standout: Marin Ireland as Ljuba, her mother’s eager and devoted Serbian caretaker and increasingly necessary companion to Su. Ireland I think advances the whole show with her entertaining, funny, affecting performance. She has the hilarious fitness of a young Holly Hunter, and - as the play feels more than anything like a sitcom - she strikes that sitcom broadness in tone and timing.
Nico Santos is good too (with his infectious laugh) as Su’s flamboyant theater sidekick and chosen one for Ljuba’s green card marriage.
Eisenberg thru a suburban comedy of manners of sorts attempts to impugn the hypocrisy of America and its comfortable middle class - but the finesse isn’t there. Su’s daughter character comes into the play later on, a hyper-liberal who is also virulent and racist (making fun of Ljuba’s accent) but she doesn’t impact the play in any ironic or smart way, she’s written very unimaginatively and the performance is extreme to an egregious, distracting degree. The ending adds new ominous dimension to the Su character who becomes a stand-in for America - by extorting Ljuba, Eisenberg’s statement seems to be that immigrants are made bound, betrayed, indebted to America in order to remain - the problem is he doesn’t clear the tonal jags or sift fully thru Su’s character to justify that ending.
And a lot of the joy watching this comes from its referential nostalgia for musical theater but ultimately feels a little like deflection for Eisenberg’s attack on the practice and profession of acting, as if he wants to say: don’t take it home with you. (They use the old South Pacific soundtrack during scenic transitions but could’ve incorporated them more cleverly as the Su character’s mental abstractions.)
More on Marin Ireland: since ’08 she’s been in 18 stage productions both on and off Broadway, nearly 30 movies, and nearly 20 different TV projects. A crazy impressive work ethic. Anybody see her in anything?