note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark
Production Manager & Assistant Lighting Designer Shelley Hagar
Costume & Prop Design by Morgan Kaegael
Stage Manager Betsy Roe
The Industrial Theatre --- which winters at Harvard's Leverett House in Cambridge and does Shakespeare summers in Taunton --- is the best kept theatrical secret in Boston. They are a genuine company whose members have worked and performed together for several years, and their playwright-in-residence William Donnelly moves easily from typewriter to stage. I have seen three lovingly nuanced productions by this group, and the 90 minutes of Harold Pinter's "Betrayal" they are presenting currently is a sublime illustration of their excellent work.
The two men in the play --- a publisher and one of his editors, who have been life-long friends and regular lunch buddies --- say they must get back to playing squash regularly, but Pinter's play seems much more a slow, careful ping-pong game. Most of the scenes (which proceed, out of sequence, backward in time) involve only two people whose every phrase implies more than it says, so that every pause hangs pregnant with possibilities. Faces, gestures, flickers of hesitation or question mean as much as words in these conversations. The entire play is about watching people think.
Though the focus here is intense, there is a quiet, unhurried flow that is intensified by perfectly chosen incidental music --- I recognized phrases from Vaughan-Williams' "The Lark Arising" among others --- that suspend time. The company's artistic director Christopher Scully designed a set with three precise playing-areas, added projections identifying the year for each scene, and paid careful attention to lighting effects. In one scene, for instance, soft sunset-light of a Venetian canal streams softly in through a non-existent window. Just as there is not a non-essential phrase in Pinter's script, there is not a detail in this production that is not delicately, deftly right.
Here William Donnelly's Jerry and Heather McNamara's Emma walk back through the seven years of their afternoon-affair's significant points, including Kevin McNamara's Robert --- her husband and Jerry's oldest friend. Timothy Barney does a brief turn as waiter in an Italian restaurant. Bursts of suspicion and discovery interrupt a smooth status quo that Jerry, at least, prefers to have go on unchanged and uninterrupted. His one burst of passion comes at the end of the play...the beginning of the affair. Whether Robert knows...when he knows...is a worry, though knowing never impels him to interrupt the regular lunches with his friend. All is as placid as quiet water shimmering occasionally with subterranean currents.
The only thing missing from this unique theatrical experience is a larger audience appreciative of this company's work.