House Logo
Explore categories +

Belleville (#110 of 3)

The Best of Off-Broadway’s Theatricalization of Film: The Flick, Belleville, & Really Really

Comments Comments (...)

The Best of Off-Broadway’s Theatricalization of Film: <em>The Flick</em>, <em>Belleville</em>, & <em>Really Really</em>
The Best of Off-Broadway’s Theatricalization of Film: <em>The Flick</em>, <em>Belleville</em>, & <em>Really Really</em>

The best Off Broadway productions so far this year—The Flick at Playwrights Horizons, Belleville at New York Theatre Workshop, and Really Really at Manhattan Class Company—would probably make lousy movies. There’s no shame in that, but plenty of irony. After all, the traditional well-made play still serves as the model for most film scripts. To stake out fresh territory, talented young writers like Annie Baker, Amy Herzog, and Paul Downs Colazzo have veered away from the classic theater conventions annexed by films. Turnabout being fair play, they’ve theatricalized film techniques and genres to come up with something all their own.

Baker’s The Flick is a virtuosic example of naturalism. But it’s also a high-concept exploration of the push-me-pull-you relationship between film and theater. Collegiate movie nerd Avery learns how things work behind the screen at the Flick, a movie theater in Worcester County, Massachusetts. His teachers are the 35-year-old, longtime attendant Sam and 29-year-old projectionist Rose. The plot is minimal and the running time is maximal, giving director Sam Gold room to exhibit how theater can match film’s vaunted prowess at exhibiting the flicker of feeling crossing someone’s face.

Family Ties: An Interview with 4000 Miles Playwright Amy Herzog

Comments Comments (...)

Family Ties: An Interview with 4000 Miles Playwright Amy Herzog
Family Ties: An Interview with 4000 Miles Playwright Amy Herzog

The most dramatic thing that happens in playwright Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles occurs at the beginning of the play. That’s when 21-year-old Leo, all grimy from a cross-country bike ride, arrives unexpectedly in the middle of the night at the door of his 91-year-old grandmother’s apartment in Greenwich Village. But with the series of incisive scenes that follow, both funny and moving, Herzog has written one of the best new plays of the season. She charts an unconventional intergenerational friendship between grandmother and grandson; Leo is dealing with the recent loss of his best friend in a biking accident while Vera is coping with the annoyances of getting old. Herzog’s writing is surefooted and quietly brilliant. She’s equally comfortable writing dialogue for characters that are more than half a century apart and suggests complex lives for even the supporting and off-stage characters. At 33, she has the grace and insights of a mature writer.

4000 Miles has been given an impeccably calibrated production at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater (through June 17), directed by Daniel Aukin and featuring the Tony and Drama Desk award-winning actress Mary Louise Wilson, as Vera, the nonagenarian grandmother and Gabriel Ebert as her grandson. Wilson, best known for Grey Gardens and Full Gallop, and the relative newcomer Ebert give memorable performances providing perfect foil for each other; the production is also enhanced by Greta Lee and Zoë Winters in the supporting roles and by Lauren Helpern’s evocative set design.

Herzog first gained attention in New York in 2010 with After the Revolution, an epic, semi-autobiographical family drama which spans three generations of an American communist family in New York and Boston. Vera, the matriarch of family, is a recurring character in both After the Revolution and 4000 Miles. The House recently caught up with Herzog to chat about her work.

Conversing with Objects: Belleville @ the Yale Repertory Theatre

Comments Comments (...)

Conversing with Objects: <em>Belleville</em> @ the Yale Repertory Theatre
Conversing with Objects: <em>Belleville</em> @ the Yale Repertory Theatre

Belleville, a new play in its debut run at the Yale Repertory Theatre, is most provocatively a conversation of objects—most of them of the innocuous, household variety. A baby monitor is broken apart by a frazzled woman who mistakes the cries it emits as those of her unborn niece. A man makes a meager peace offering to his reasonably fed-up landlord with a half-filled hash pipe; later, he forces a buttery pastry into his unwilling, not to mention hung over, wife’s face out of desperation, though not until after she’s performed impromptu surgery on a broken toenail with a large butcher’s knife. A stemless wine glass, the bottom stained with at least two-day-old cheap red residue, sits on a dining table stage right throughout the drama’s duration as a kind of emblem of the collegiate ex-pat fantasy. (This puerile reverie is further filled out within the single set—a small Parisian apartment—by postcards pegged tackily onto the wall, what look like pre-furnished, faux-Arabic throw pillows on a neutral gray couch, and a row of funny little chimneys sprouting off of the roof.) And in perhaps the most devastating example, a guarded cellphone becomes an objective correlative through which issues of miscommunication, betrayal, and manipulation are finally thrown into the intimidating deep end of verbalization.