Review: Belleville

Belleville; 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; $12-$22. Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Boulevard; (916) 960-3036; Through March 26.
Rated 4.0

Young expats Zack and Abby seem to have created an ideal life—they’re a newly married young couple living in an old apartment in Paris while he works for Doctors Without Borders and she teaches yoga. But from the opening scene of Belleville, when Abby returns home unexpectedly and finds Zack enjoying sketchy websites, you know there’s more beneath their carefully constructed surface.

You also know if you’re a Big Idea Theatre regular, this current production is probably not going to end well for at least one of the characters—since the theater tends to choose plays with darker themes and hues. What playwright Amy Herzog does so well in Belleville is to slowly suck the audience into the story while gradually adding suspense and shifting sympathies.

Belleville directors Jouni Kirjola and Jamie Kale skillfully steer a solid four-person cast: Zachary Scovel as Zack, the patient husband to an emotionally fragile wife; Nina Dramer as Abby, the needy-and-naive spouse; and Vernon Lewis and Sarina Krastev as the Parisian landlords who are dragged both willingly and unwillingly into the slowly escalating drama of the American couple.

This is a 90-minute production with evolving plotlines, where characters cautiously juggle loyalties and lies, and where their secrets and deceptions constantly threaten to topple what seems to be a most fortunate life. The set is a simple old-city living room, with the drama augmented by creative lighting and the chaotic and constant sounds of Parisian street life.