BELLEVILLE: Theater Review – “Company of Fools” speaks to the mystery of relationships

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“We don’t know you. We thought we knew you.”

That is the theme that propels Belleville, written by the Pulitzer nominated Amy Herzog, produced by Company of Fools, and directed by Cameron Clarke that runs now through September 15 at theatre54@shetler studios in New York City.


The revelation, spoken by Alioune, (Jason Aubin) a French landlord in the Bohemian section of Belleville, outside Paris, arrives at a point in the play where we all feel blindsided by the young American couple Zack, (Jordan Sobel) a doctor, and his actress/yoga teacher wife, Abby (Jess Rawls). All in their mid-20s, Alioune and his wife, Amina, (Kira Player) had befriended their tenants. Until we discover the friendship between these couples has been impeded by the four months of back rent now owed by Zack, unbeknownst to Abby. It turns out, that is the least of what she does not know.


Small secrets loom large and blizzard into a hellish storm. It begins the moment Abby comes home, midday, from her cancelled class, only to find she is not alone in the apartment. Zack, a doctor who brought them to Paris for his research on pediatric AIDS, apparently is also home. Sounds from the bedroom make it seem as if he might be having an affair. He is, of sorts… with websites found on his computer. Abby and Zack handle the bump, mainly, with aplomb. After all, they have been together since the end of college; she proposing to him when they were but 22 to insure her terminally ill mother’s presence at the wedding. Besides, she is in this transition period of finally getting off 5 years of anti-depressants, since her mother’s death. Thankfully, though, Abby is married to Zack. Not only a stable influence, he is a doctor who takes care of her. “Is it the city of love or is it the city of life?” Abby wonders aloud, as we watch the couple come close, then recoil and repeat as they negotiate their intimacy.


If life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, we become witness to the couple’s roller-coaster reveal. What begins as a seemingly millennial rom-com changes, as the pair get swept into an almost Hitchcockian sequence, ultimately showing their life together was nothing of what they lived or imagined. How much of that is specific to the particular couple, and how much attributed to this generation of millennials? Belleville, a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist and 2013 Drama Desk nominee for Outstanding Play addresses that question by dramatizing the shades of gray.


“Black and white doesn’t make for good drama,” says Clarke Cameron who, through his Company of Fools, chose to examine the question of what is a happy relationship in the millennial generation. “Absolute right vs absolute wrong isn’t a world we live in. Ms Herzog has written a powerful play that examines race, class, addiction, codependency, and mental illness as it reflects a very important truth: our relationships, romantic and otherwise, are precious things worth protecting. But sometimes being so desperate to protect precious things just makes them more tender, and ultimately, easier to break.”


Under Cameron’s strong directorial hand, the tight and committed ensemble of actors deliver this compelling play that answers questions, as it raises more. Click here for more information and to buy tickets, or visit FoolsCompany on Facebook.


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