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BWW Interview: Kelsey McMillan and Jo Ganner Talk Firecracker Productions' BELLEVILLE

Jo Ganner and Nolan LeGault in BELLEVILLE

"BELLEVILLE at its core, I think, is about a fractured marriage," says Kelsey McMillan, director of Firecracker Productions' upcoming show. Said marriage, in Amy Herzog's BELLEVILLE, is between Zack, a doctor specializing in pediatric AIDS research, and Abby, an aspiring actress and current yoga instructor.

"Abby is an anxiety-driven, hot mess of, 'I'm still trying to pursue my dreams and I'm making my inconsistent life work by doing something that makes me want to kill myself a bit less than waiting tables -- teaching yoga -- while I do grown up things like get married,'" says BELLEVILLE actress Jo Ganner. "Abby had the brightest of dreams and was told that she could do anything as a child but, like a lot of my generation, she's thwarted when she's faced with the harsh realities of life and responsibility."

Harsh realities that begin to grow to undeniable, life-threatening proportions when Abby finds Zack home, unexpectedly, in the middle of a workday. "This is how it happens in real life," says McMillan. "These dangers and tragedies, they sneak up on us as we desperately try to make everything okay. But things aren't okay, and the signs are there, the red flags. Still we ignore them and allow the tragedy to creep up on us because we don't want to believe it could go there."

BELLEVILLE goes there. It's a dark, often described as Hitchcockian exploration of a failing relationship but, more than that, the complete unraveling of two people. "I was totally hooked by the thriller aspect of Belleville," says McMillan. "[It] was sort of mesmerizing but also so raw and real. Like, I've seen this before; I've seen this guy, and Abby. I've seen this poisonous relationship in one way or another, where you sit and wait and hope things don't go too far."

The audience will see some of how far Zack and Abby go, but some will be left to the imagination. "A lot of the action takes place off stage," says McMillan, "in the bedroom, bathroom, or outside the apartment, but I think it lends itself to the mystery."

The play's single living room set also creates a unique intimacy between the actors and the audience, intimacy that invites the audience not only into the couple's apartment and lives, but into their relationship. A relationship that, Ganner admits, she had a profound, gut reaction to. "Without giving too much away, I felt a connection to the nature of sacrificing for the one that you love, the desperation to hold onto love or a relationship or the way that things 'used to be' and the pressure to be the best version of yourself for your partner."

Herzog's BELLEVILLE asks the question, can one person can truly ever know another, and Ganner believes that while humans can be shielded and secretive for many reasons, for the right person, it is possible with a little trust. "Letting that wall drop is one of the bravest things a person can do because they are putting themselves on the line to get hurt. [But] in the end, love will win. You just have to find somebody as brave as you to take the leap and travel down the rabbit hole."

McMillan, on the other hand, laughs at the idea. "You know, I think I know myself very well, and yet there are still scenarios in which I can honestly say I have no idea how I would react until it was happening and I had to make a call. I think that's true for everyone. I think we can know other people to an extent but life is so situational.

"When the pressure is on ... who knows?"

Firecracker Productions' BELLEVILLE by Amy Herzog is directed by Kelsey McMillan and features Jo Ganner, Nolan LeGault, Danielle Bunch, and Jerry Nwosuocha. The show runs from December 4 to December 19 at Obsidian Theater. Tickets are available online at

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