note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
Watching Another Country Productions (ACP) and the Factory Theatre’s slick co-production of Nobel Prize-winning British playwright Harold Pinter’s provocative one-act, 90-minute play, “Betrayal,” reminds me of writing news stories. Open with a catchy lead - hit ‘em hard, hit ‘em fast, hit ‘em in the beginning. Put the most important information up front, then include the “nut” paragraph, or what the story is about; use quotes and supporting information, from most important to least important facts and background information, creating an inverted triangle.
Pinter’s play opens in the spring of 1977, where an estranged couple meet in an art gallery, aware that their long-term affair is over. The action spirals downward, scene by scene, to their deliciously secret, seven-year tryst they enjoyed without arousing their spouses’ suspicion.
In nine brief, dramatic scenes Emma and Jerry meet bittersweetly, as the play flashes back, scene by scene, from the erosion of their affair to its passionate beginning in 1968. Two museum security guards set up each scene, moving benches, tables and chairs around, while shining flashlights on dates labeled over individual abstract paintings, sculptures and vases. We time travel from that gallery back to Jerry’s house; his and Emma’s hideaway flat; a Venice, Italy hotel room; a restaurant; and Robert and Emma’s house, counting down chronically to Jerry and Emma’s initial romantic involvement, ending with a giddy, inebriated Jerry announcing his love and adoration to Emma, kissing her passionately during a New Year’s party. Set designer Dahlia L’Habieli, aided by co-producer/lighting designer Greg Jutkiewicz, has created a handsome set, with museum windows above that change hues, from fuschia, blue, and yellow, and also transform into abstract paintings.
Authors’ agent Jerry is Robert’s best friend and Robert’s best man at his wedding. He also works for laidback publisher Robert, and he is married to Judith, a nighttime nurse, whom we never see. The couples each have two children.
The driving force behind this production is superb acting. Another Country Productions Artistic Director-actress Lyralen Kaye, who teaches the Meisner Technique of acting, effectively incorporates that style, in which the actors spontaneously respond to each other with increased intensity and realism. Kaye as Emma is deeply moving during scenes with Jerry (portrayed by Robert Kropf), as they banter, bicker, and frolic in each other’s arms. She is tender, yet defensive at times with husband Robert (Wayne Fritsche), who, in turn, plays cat-and-mouse games with British civility while conversing with Jerry. He alludes to but doesn’t reveal that Emma told him about her affair with Jerry four years earlier.
Pinter weaves in another unseen character named Casey, an author suspected of having an affair with Emma.
Director Gail Phaneuf, (also sound designer), and this excellent cast, including stagehands-supporting actors James Wilcox and Steven Lee, are fascinating. As the action counts down to the beginning of this nine-year, tightly interwoven romantic web, we anticipate an unexpected snag, which doesn’t happen. Instead, we’re treated to a handsome production that Pinter would’ve savored, since he relied on his actors’ skills; and they deliver with finesse.
BOX INFO: One-act, 90-minute play, written by Harold Pinter, presented by Another Country Productions (ACP) and the Factory Theatre, now through June 5, at the Boston Center for the Arts, Calderwood Pavilion, (second floor), 527 Tremont St., Boston. Showtimes are Wednesdays, Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 3,8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Also May 26 at 2 p.m. Premium tickets are $35; general admission, $30; seniors, students, $27. Call 617-933-8600 or visit www.BostonTheatreScene.com.