By Marlene S. Gaylinn

“Belleville,” by Yale School of Drama graduate, Amy Herzog, is about a young, American couple that for some strange reasons, find themselves struggling to live in the suburbs of Paris. Maria Dizzia is the wife, “Abby,” who recently recovered from psychological depression over a loss in her family. She teaches yoga, while husband, “Zack” (Greg Keller), is supposedly employed as a medical doctor. The husband apparently has some vague, psychological problems of his own. When Abby unexpectedly arrives home earlier than usual, and finds Zack pleasuring himself in the bedroom, she uncovers other secrets that are life changing. The other characters in the play are the couple’s black landlords, “Amina” (Pascale Armand), and “Alioune” (Gilbert Owuor), who are desperately in need of the couple’s back rent. A baby’s cries are periodically heard but we are uncertain where they are coming from or why they are being inserted.


It seems that Abby and Zack have psychological issues that prevent them from normal communication. Instead of talking problems out, they are apparently living separate lives under the same roof. For unknown reasons, the couple is unable to cope with reality. Emotions are easily heightened and these two insecure people are continually saving one another from suicide. These seemingly purposeless, sea-sawing demonstrations finally become tiresome to watch. Except for the fact that both people are somewhat crazy, we cannot comprehend the reasons behind the storms taking place on stage. We anxiously await a clarifying conclusion to our quest, but remain bewildered at the play’s strange ending. It’s like reading a notice in a newspaper and trying to guess why this tragic incident happened.


But that’s not all. There’s a teasing, anti-climax. Just when we think play’s puzzle will be finally solved, the stage lights come on and we find the landlords cleaning the apartment for new tenants. Throughout this final scene the pair converse entirely in French and the audience is expected to read sign/body language. Even if you know French, the words are barely audible.


The four actors deserve an “A” for their dramatic renditions of the script, which was the only element that held the audience spellbound until the end. “Belleville” is a promising work, the dialog is certainly well written, but its structure has many flaws. Most importantly, no one, except perhaps the Madoffs, can live together without knowing the basic facts about one another. Living in Paris without a valid reason, not knowing that your husband failed medical school or where income is coming from, are unbelievable premises. Simply being crazy is not an excuse.


Plays through Nov. 12

Tickets:  203-432-1234


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