Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles

BellevillePasadena Playhouse
Review by Terry Morgan

Anna Camp and Thomas Sadoski
Photo by Philicia Endelman
Labeling a work of art as being one particular thing can often be problematic, creating expectations that the piece doesn't fulfill. Amy Herzog's play Belleville is being promoted as a Hitchcockian thriller, which it is not. It's only a thriller in the sense that Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a thriller, in that it depicts the emotional combat between a married couple. That aside, Belleville is witty, sharp, and thoroughly entertaining, and in its production at the Pasadena Playhouse, extremely well acted.

American couple Abby (Anna Camp) and Zack (Thomas Sadoski) are living in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. They've gone there due to Zack's medical work with a pediatric AIDS organization, and Abby is supportive, even though she'd rather be back home. Things seem okay between the two of them, but strains are beginning to show when landlord Alioune (Moe Jeudy-Lamour) visits. Abby is full of brittle chatter and Zack seems put-upon, and over the course of one long day the true nature of their marriage is revealed.

To those who only know Camp from her roles in True Blood or the Pitch Perfect series of movies, her performance here will be a revelation. The fact that she can play charming or funny is no surprise, but her dramatic work here is strong and affecting, not to mention an impressive portrayal of underlying mania that grows as the story progresses. Sadoski is also very good as the well-meaning if opaque Zack, especially when things fall apart and his character's motivations become nervously uncertain to the audience. Jeudy-Lamour is solid as a reasonable landlord in a tricky situation, and Sharon Pierre-Louis is fine if underused as Alioune's practical wife Amina.

Director Jenna Worsham is attuned to the subtle nuances of the piece and keeps what could be mostly a talky two-hander continually engaging. David Meyer's apartment set is realistic and lovely, bringing a lot to the show, although the backdrop seems a bit lackluster. The first thing to say about Herzog's writing is that at least half of the show is straight-up comedy, and this part works wonderfully. The second half, where things get significantly more serious, also works, but not quite as smoothly. The character motivations become a bit less credible, but it's to Herzog's credit that it still succeeds anyway.

Overall, this is a terrific production of an intriguing play, and devotees of great writing and acting should pay Belleville a visit.

Belleville, through May 13, 2018, at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S El Molino Ave., Pasadena CA. Tickets and information are available at

Written by Amy Herzog. Directed by Jenna Worsham.

Lighting Designer: Zach Blaine
Scenic Designer: David Meyer
Costume Designer: Sara Ryung Clement
Sound Designer: John Zalewski

Abby: Anna Camp
Zack: Thomas Sadoski
Alioune: Moe Jeudy-Lamour
Amina: Sharon Pierre-Louis