Theater: “Belleville” Is Beautiful . . . Or Is It? (A Study in the Suspense of Trust)

Photo/Joan Marcus

Photo/Joan Marcus

Imagine that you’ve been out drinking and have returned home with your husband. You foolishly cut your foot on a misplaced knife, and your scream causes your neighbors–who are also your best friends–over to your apartment. Upon flinging upon the door, they see your husband mopping a small amount of blood and vomit off the floor and when he picks the knife up, they understand that he’s simply carrying it into the kitchen to be cleaned. Now imagine that the people who burst into your apartment are your landlords, and while they know you, you’re still, to some degree, a stranger. When your husband picks up the knife, then, they cannot help but flinch: the implicit trust that causes your friends to assume the best has not been established, and therefore, the fear of the worst persists. Now go a step further: imagine that earlier that day, you caught the man you’re married to, whom you’ve known for at least five years, jerking off to some rather disturbing porn instead of being at work. He’s evasive when it come to everything except how much he loves you, and he’s smoking way more pot than usual. And though it’s true that you happen to be tapering off your anti-anxiety medication, that you’re too self-consciously American to feel comfortable in your new Paris home, and that the upcoming Christmas holiday is just one more emotionally fraught weight on your shoulders, you start to wonder just how well you know your husband. When he picks up that knife and attempts to bandage your toe, perhaps you, too, reflexively pull back. Trust has been broken, and from that crumbling foundation comes the soul-crushing suspense of Amy Herzog’s Belleville. While the husband in question, Zack (Greg Keller), appears to very much love his wife, Abby (Maria Dizzia), manic-depressive (planter’s) warts and all, he’s also four months behind on the rent, and his commonplace cheer is starting to seem sinister.

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