The Best Sort of Theater
Make that “the best sort of ‘theatre'” because virtually every acting company in DC that has the-a-ter in its name uses the British spelling…
Friday evening, we headed downtown for Studio Theatre’s (see?) production of BELLEVILLE by Amy Herzog. Why, yes, you might have noted we shifted our subscription to Saturday matinees. Why, yes, you might have noted that a Friday night is not a Saturday matinee. Why, yes, you might have noted that when the schedule arrived, we had a conflict for “our” Saturday — and for every other Saturday matinee the play was showing!
In any case, we headed downtown for the evening performance, and we hassled with parking, and with a less than stellar dinner, and with having extra time before the show, and, and, and…
And it was all worth it.
We saw another Herzog play last year — 4,000 MILES. We knew that she could write realistic dialog spoken by people in crisis who are trying to conceal parts of their pasts to protect themselves in their presents. But that didn’t prepare us for BELLEVILLE.
The play is set in Paris, in a neighborhood inhabited by many immigrants, including a young American couple who have moved their so that Zack can help children with AIDS. His wife, Abby, has had trouble making the adjustment to her expat life. The entire action of the play takes place over a 24-hour period, as the couple confronts each other about the problems in their relationship.
BELLEVILLE follows in a long line of “relationship” plays. For me, it resonated most closely to WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF and AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY — Herzog’s play has the same vicious use of language, the same domineering thrusts and parries by people who aren’t afraid to fight with words. About 15 minutes before the end of the play, I realized that I truly did not know how it was going to conclude — there were at least three very realistic, fully supported directions the play could have taken.
Despite my years as a litigator, I am not a Warrior of Words — I hate the type of brutal confrontation that takes front and center in BELLEVILLE. But as a theater-goer, and a student of people, and a general admirer of beautiful words, I’m in awe of the play and its performance.
(One minor flaw — two supporting characters primarily speak French to each other in their dialog. I understood what they said, but my theater-going companion felt that he missed almost all of a crucial late scene.)Perhaps my admiration for Herzog’s work is based, at least in part, on a scene in ALWAYS RIGHT — the first knock-down, drag out verbal fight I’ve ever truly written. (Zingers, yeah, I’ve got those down. But all out warfare? That was a first for me…)Sigh… Off to edit now!P.S. The rest of our weekend was relatively quiet, marked mostly by the death of the power of the baseball cap — the Nats finally lost a game while I wore it to the park. Oh well. Time to start a new streak!