|Heidi Ramee - Photos by Maria Proios|
By Joe Straw
Abby (Heidi Ramee) seems to have everything going for her as she opens the door to the entryway of her beautiful apartment in Paris, France. She’s young, beautiful, yoga fit, and outward appearances suggest she has the world at her feet.
She settles inside her apartment and walks into her bedroom. She screams and steps back out.
Zach (Tomas Pais), a tall and majestic figure, walks out of the bedroom pulling up his pants. It’s obvious they have a relationship; they are married, and she has caught him masturbating while on his computer.
Abby is okay, just a little startled. She wasn’t expecting him home so early in the day.
“Zach, what are you doing here?” – Abby
Crimson Square Theatre Company presents Belleville by Amy Herzog. Directed by Benjamin Burt, produced by Crimson Square Theatre Company in Association with Beverly Hills Playhouse & Cheshire Moon, Inc. through November 20, 2022 at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.
Zach, a little ruffled and unshaven, says that he was taking the day off, nothing was going on, and they wouldn’t miss him at Doctors Without Borders. He says he must clean up, feeling a little moist, and walks into the bathroom to take a shower.
While in the shower Alioune (Andrew Tyree) the landlord knocks on the door. Alioune wants to speak with Zach. Abby says Zach is in the shower, and Alioune says he’ll come back another time, but she insists that he is welcome to come in and wait.
Small talk on the couch as Abby gets uncomfortably and intimately close to Alioune when a towel wrapped Zach tiptoes off into the bedroom. Alioune moves away and sensing something and Abby has an angry moment in the conversation that catches him off guard, but he manages to remain calm.
|L - R Andrew Tyree and Thomas Pais|
Zach, knowing what Alioune is there for, comes out of the bedroom and immediately heads for his stash so they can smoke together. Abby excuses herself and heads into the bedroom.
Although Alioune participates and is now somewhat relaxed, he is there for one purpose only, to collect the rent. He tells Zach that he has put up with him because they are friends, but he is now four months behind in rent and his boss is starting to get angry.
Zach blames Abby for spending a lot of money on Christmas gifts, plus she has psychological and pharmacological issues, and Zach promises that he will get Alioune the money tomorrow.
Moments in this beautiful apartment suddenly become disquieting when information released puts the audience into a head spin leading us into a terrifying sense of upheaval within the relationships. Ms. Herzog, the writer, leads us every step of the way with small moments that questions our inner beliefs as to what side we should be on. And all of this takes place within the course of a day as each bit of information is released. Why would we not believe a “doctor” when he is only trying to help his wife with all her emotional problems, the constant worrying about her pregnant sister, and talking with her dad on a regular basis? He comforts and soothes her worries, doctors her bleeding foot, and takes her phone away from her when she is intoxicated. What? And all is not right with the “doctor in wonderland”, head of the household, and the truly responsible financial party, becomes, within each waking moment, more emotionally terrifying especially when slipping behind the hanging beads into the kitchen only to appears with a large kitchen knife. Every moment sends us into the terrifying ending.
Benjamin Burt, the director, has directed a wonderful production. Each second is carefully crafted giving us tidbit of a relationship that may not endure, and he does that one step at a time. It is rare in small theatre, or any theatre at all for that matter, that the acting is that finely tuned. The moments accumulate to the terrifying ending, the doors are not locked, and there is no way out of that apartment. This direction of this play would rank as one of the finest works I’ve seen in a very long time.
Heidi Ramee is excellent as Abby. Abby has talked about going to Paris for five years before her husband decided to move them there. But while there, Abby has not tried to learn the language, she is afraid of riding on the metro, the people that bother her and the trouble she can get into. She is happy to teach her yoga classes but taking her medicine to ease her mental suffering belies something deeper in their relationship. Also, she seems totally oblivious to his job and the money they have in their bank account.
Tomas Pais is equally excellent as Zach a man who on the outside has many wonderful qualities. He is fit, pleasant to be around, and seems knowledgeable on many subjects including the welfare of his wife and his in-laws. His physical appearance shows the clink in his armor with the unkept hair and the scruffy beard. Certainly not the look of a gentleman, or a doctor. But things start unraveling as information comes to light and managing the information has him on edge especially when his stash of weed dwindles down to the forgotten scraps in the bottom on the can. As Zach’s world seems to shrink, he grasps his Ulna bone of his wrists and squeezes it in a very nice character trait.
Andrew Tyree is also exceptional as Alioune. A neighbor, a friend, a smoking buddy, and the landlord. He is in a small dilemma first with his boss and secondly with his wife who knows nothing about his use of weed. He tries to be the best friend, but money always gets in the way. And when his friend crosses the line there is no turning back. Tyree is excellent in the role.
|Olabisi Kovabel |
Olabisi Kovabel is Amina, Alioune’s wife. She is at home with the baby and hardly able to come out to find out what’s going on. But she has an inkling as to what might be happening. Amina has trouble believing that Zach is responsible and seems to take out her frustration against Abby especially when Abby is intoxicated. Kovabel has a strong presence on stage and is very enjoyable in the role.
Beautiful set design was by CS Build Team and the set construction was by Thomas Pais, yes, the same man playing Zach. The work was wonderful.
Nancy Paley was responsible for the Wardrobe, and it did indeed look European!
Viviana was the Executive Producer and the show was magnificently produced.
There were also excellent sounds reverberating from various places baby noises compliments of Miles Cooper and Jeffrey Sun. And very nice music by Jacob Yoffee.
Shannon Spangler, Sean McBride, DeMarcus Brooks, and Yaya Ogun were understudies and did not perform the night I was there.
Other members of the crew are as follows:
Karla Kamm – Associate Producer
Jeffry Sun – Head Stage Manager
Derrick McDaniels – Lighting Designer
Sandra Kuker – Publicist
Jessica Ott – House Manager
Jeffrey Sun – Graphic Design
V3 Productions & Karla Kamm – Marketing/Social Media
You’ve got one week to see this incredible show.
Run! Run! Run! And take a lover.