“Belleville” makes world debut

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Photo by Selen Uman.

After four years away from the Yale stage, award-winning playwright Amy Herzog ’00 DRA ’07 has returned with her most recent script in hand.

Today marks the world premiere of Herzog’s newest play, “Belleville,” which deals with the unraveling marriage of an American couple living in Paris. The show, directed by Anne Kauffman, will run at the Yale Repertory Theatre until mid-November.

“Belleville” follows the relationship of a young American couple, Zack and Abby, who have moved to restart their life in the modern-day bohemian neighborhood of Belleville. Their seemingly stable marriage begins to spiral out of control when Abby finds Zack at home on a day he is meant to be at work. The troubled expat couple finds its foil in a French-Senegalese pair, Alioune and Amino, that lives in the same apartment building.

“Zack and Abby’s marriage is what any marriage could become,” Herzog said.

Herzog said she chose to set the play entirely within the privacy of Zach and Abby’s apartment. With only one set and four characters, Herzog said the audience can fully connect and identify with the hardships of their relationship. Herzog said she saw Paris as an outdated fantasy of American escapism and an appropriate setting for Zack and Abby’s own romantic disillusionment.

The Yale Rep commissioned Herzog to write “Belleville” after her graduation from the Yale School of Drama. Herzog said she appreciated the “incredible amount of time” the Yale Rep gave her to develop the play — after four and a half years of rewrites, the play was finally ready to be workshopped in April.

Kauffman, who made her Yale Rep debut last season with the world premiere of “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” said she especially connected with the play’s plot and even found herself relating Zack and Abby’s marriage to her own. Although it is never said explicitly in the script, Herzog said she wrote Abby and Zack as a pair of Yalies.

“This play had a lot to teach me,” Kauffman said. “When being in a relationship, it’s all about unmasking yourself. [“Belleville”] shows us the extreme version of the conclusion of a strained relationship.”

Maria Dizzia, who plays Abby, said this part has given her a deeper understanding of her own attraction to theater.

“I want people who feel like Abby to not feel that way … I want [the audience] to find courage through my character,” said Dizzia, who was nominated for a 2010 Tony Award for her role in the Sarah Ruhl play “In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)”.

“Belleville” runs at the Yale Repertory Theatre through Nov. 12.

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