Justin Bartha is best known to most Americans as the strait-laced Doug in the “Hangover” movies. But he’s beginning to make waves in the New York theater world, appearing as a thirtysomething depressive in the off-Broadway dramatic comedy “All New People,” which opened Monday night at New York’s Second Stage Theater.
Now Bartha tells Culture Monster that he’ll star opposite Jesse Eisenberg in “Asuncion,” a dark comedy that Eisenberg wrote and will star in, and which will be presented by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at New York’s Cherry Lane Theater.
Bartha will play Vinny, a progressive academic and roommate of left-wing blogger Edgar (Eisenberg), who’s thrown for a loop when a Filipino roommate moves in. Veteran off-Broadway director Kip Fagan (“Jack’s Precious Moment,” “Detention Tension”) will direct the production, which aims to open later this year.
Bartha and Eisenberg, who are friends, have experience acting together. Last year they starred in the independent film “Holy Rollers,” about Hasidic Ecstasy dealers (prompting the “Hangover” star to quip that their new collaboration will focus on “Catholic pot dealers”).
Eisenberg has been adding notches to his acting belt in the past year, landing an Oscar nomination for his role as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg in “The Social Network” and voicing an exotic bird in the animated film “Rio.” He’s flying off in a new direction with “Asuncion,” following the path of another screen actor, Zach Braff, who made his debut this week as a playwright with the off-Broadway comedy “All New People.”
Bartha said he’d like to continue working in theater, at least as long as movies with dramatic roles remain out-of-fashion in the film world. “Unless you’re Brad Pitt or one of five or 10 actors, you don’t really get a chance to play the kind of film roles you’d like to,” he said. “Theater is a good way to counterbalance that.”
He said that despite the professional adjustment that going from “The Hangover” to off-Broadway requires, the Doug role has provided some advantages. “The big benefit to doing a project like that it is to have a bigger creative life,” he said. “It allows me more room to do theater, which is the reason I started acting in the first place.”