OFFBEAT: Steppenwolf's new stage thriller 'Belleville' shivers with intrigue

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-07-08T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Steppenwolf's new stage thriller 'Belleville' shivers with intrigueBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

What if you thought you really knew someone, perhaps a next door neighbor, relative or even a spouse, only to discover what you thought were facts as really just carefully crafted fiction?

It's not just a plot for a made-for-TV Lifetime cable network movie. It can and does happen.

Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company is concluding their season exploring this scenario with a stage nail-biter to keep audiences on the edge of seats.

It's the Chicago-premiere production of "Belleville" by Amy Herzog, running through Aug. 25 by Obie Award-winning director Anne Kauffman who staged the play's world premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre in 2011 and earlier this season Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop.

This is a Steppenwolf directing debut for her and the cast is comprised of stage favorites, including ensemble members Alana Arenas and Kate Arrington, along with Chris Boykin and Cliff Chamberlain.

Newly married American couple Zack, played with an uneasy edge by Chamberlain, and Abby a needy and emotional dependent characterization by Arrington, live what appears to be an ideal existence in the colorful, multi-ethnic neighborhood of Belleville, Paris. They are renting an apartment from their seemingly nice-enough husband and wife landlords, Alioune played by Boykin and Amina played by Arenas. But growing tension from situations inside the apartment building, as well as what's brewing inside each of the characters' minds, sets off a chain of events that leave each of the four questioning their own lives, identities and future.

Mostly staged as a thriller, with plenty of suspense and speculation, there are also moments of mystery and humor. Be warned there are instances of social drugs, prescription med references, a flash of nudity and a touch of adult language and situations. And at times, there's also moments of: Would this really happen? But all in all, what's explored and examined is gripping and presented with the means to keep the audience discussing about what has just been seen long after the final bows.

The production team for "Belleville" includes an amazingly striking set design of a Paris apartment by James Schuette and ideal costume design by Janice Pytel. Matt Frey's lighting design and Richard Woodbury's sound design and original music help set the tip-toe tone of uncertainty for this one hour and 45 minute, no intermission exploration of what lurks in the world of relationships.

Tickets to "Belleville" are $20 to $78 at the theater at 1650 N Halsted St. or call (312) 335-1650 or visit Twenty $20 tickets are always available through Audience Services beginning at 11 a.m. on the day of each performance and 1 p.m. for Sunday performances. There's also the option of "Rush Tickets," which are half-price rush tickets available one hour before each show. A limited number of $15 student tickets are available online using promo code: BELLEVILLE15 with a limit of two tickets per student and the purchaser must present a valid student ID for each ticket. Free post-show discussions are offered after every performance.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Movies & Theater


Enter your Zip code below to see local movie listings:

TV Listings

Enter your ZIP code below to see local listings.
Get weekly ads via e-mail

Featured Businesses