There were the Sisters of Bellville, and there is a Belleville New Jersey where Danny Stiles said you could still dance the old fashioned way. This ain’t them.
This Belleville isn’t Belle at all. It is a sinkhole that pulls you in whether you like it or not. Amy Herzog takes on yet another unusual tale in this strange play. This time it is a couple already entrenched on a collision course with despair. And while that may not be your cup of tea, as it is not mine, there is something compelling in this tale.
For one thing there are some mighty fine actors up there who can blur the lines between performance and reality. Maria Dizzia as Abby is the last one to get on the train here. She is an unhappy woman who understands that dissatisfaction is her M.O. She will not let it go willingly, although she is trying to get off her meds as we watch.
Her husband Zack (Greg Keller) is a recently graduated Med student who has a job at Doctors Without Borders. The job is in Paris – a city to which Abby always wanted to go, but which has turned out to be not the dream they had imagined.
As we watch them tumble down the rabbit hole we are ourselves drawn into their orbit. Theirs is a falling apart that they fight. Zack wants to do whatever he can to make Abby happy. But what Abby really wants is to go home to the USA and be with her family. This she cannot dump on Zack because he is the one with the real career. Abby has given up acting (to be an actor you have to love to suffer and I only like to suffer.) and is a yoga teacher. She is pretending to like her life and so is Zack. Zack’s pretense however is stratospheric.
There are a ton of holes in this plot through which you could drive a freight truck, like where is their income coming from, and what’s so bad about daily calls with family, and there’s that bogus break in that makes no sense. Things like this actually do bug the crap out of me, and their presence is a weight on this unique study of life. I never understand why logic gaffs like these are overlooked. They nearly capsized this show - but not quite.
The strength of the acting alone carries this play along and makes you leap over the holes to stay glued to the good stuff. There is plenty of good stuff, and it sticks to your ribs long after you leave the theatre.
"Extraordinarily fine new play."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"So attractive. So disturbed. So doomed. So what? ... Revelations and switcheroos stretch credulity."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"The course of events is stretched like taffy, diluting their impact, and disbelief needs to be put on hold about halfway through. "
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"While Herzog’s considerable talent for dialogue and character is in evidence, the play is not stylish enough to be just a thriller, while the nature of Zack and Abby’s problems is based on such a web of outrageous lies that the drama fails to resonate beyond them."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"Vivid, rough-and-tumble drama ..., which keeps you ensnared from beginning to end." Robert Feldberg for The Record
"Anne Kauffman directs this rather mysterious play with perfect control over its subtle and quite alarming mood shifts."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...