4/18/2013 11:39 PM
What happens when the one you love becomes a complete stranger to you? At first glance, Zack and Abby seem to have the perfect relationship. Recently relocated to Paris after Zack lands an exciting new job, the two soon find that they are more foreign to each other than they are to their neighbors. Zack's been lying to Abby about his perfect job. And Abby's been plastering on a happy face, even though she's terribly unhappy. In attempt to reignite some romantic flair, they go out on a "date night." The evening culminates with some disturbing revelations about Zack, and an equally horrifying scene involving a broken toenail and a kitchen knife. Herzog's talent for concocting suspense is exquisite. The play unfolds like a Hitchcock thriller. By the end of the play, Zack and Abby are unrecognizable. We never quite know what's truth and what's fabrication. 'Belleville' is a refreshing, exciting nightmare of a play that is sure to be a standard for dramatic thrillers. You may never look at your spouse the same way again.
4/19/2013 3:00 PM
Belleville is the best new play I have encountered this year. This surprising and grounded work is bound to shock audiences and inspire introspection in anyone with a pulse. The play starts out calm enough, the language is conversational, convivial even, but like another master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, Herzog plants subtle clues that something is not right. Newlyweds Abby and Zack have a life many would envy. They live in a small, romantic flat in Belleville France and are deeply, deeply in love. The play begins when Abby returns home early. Much to her surprise, she finds that Zack is not at work. He’s watching porn in their bedroom. While this is by no means an ideal situation, it does not immediately appear to be a red herring, indicating that the play will ultimately tumble into a world of violence and horror. This is, perhaps, what is most brilliant about the piece. It escalates gradually. Each moment is earned. And for this reason, each moment is deeply believable and personal. As Abby begs for access to her cell phone to call her father, I saw myself in her and shared her profound loneliness. When Zack admits a secret he has been hiding for years, I was at once horrified and in awe of his capacity to love. The play is filled with shocks that will have audiences on the edge of their seats, but even more profound, is the lasting riddle that they will undoubtedly carry with them out of the theater: How would you react if you realized you did not truly know the person to whom you were married?
4/23/2013 5:09 PM
Amy Herzog's "Belleville," while written with a brilliant slice-of-life dialogue structure, somehow ultimately needs a little more magic to really make its story stageworthy. Without revealing too much, the end definitely has drama- but it winds up feeling either tacked-on or copped out; not a natural progression, but rather an abrupt deux-ex-machina trying to come across as a thrilling "surprise ending." Herzog's specialty must be capturing the nuances of real human relationships, as the interactions between Zack and Abby are absolutely relatable and familiar. However, despite various conflicts that do build in urgency, there are also moments in between (and leading up to the drama) that are ordinary for just a tad too long. In addition, the eruptive moments somehow don't build FROM each other, but rather AROUND each other; they do seem to be leading to a certain climax, but at the finish the story doesn't quite jive. This is not so much a plot twist as it is troublesome dramaturgy. In addition, the "resolution" - having to do with a sensitive social issue - actually seems unintentionally disrespectful because it is used almost thoughtlessly, like an easy, cliched fix.
"Belleville" is advertised as a "thriller," but it never quite achieves that level of suspense. There is conflict, there is passion, there is tightly constructed dialogue- but as a whole there just isn't enough consistency in the momentum to hit it out of the park.