Betrayal – A Play True to the Heart
Coco Nakase ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Huntington Theatre Company’s Betrayal , one of English playwright Harold Pinter’s major works, is an interesting and honest look at the capacity of love and the lies that often go with it. Emma (played by Gretchen Egolf) betrays her husband (Mark H. Dold) when she becomes involved with his best friend and also a married man, Jerry (Alan Cox) in an affair that spans seven years. Their affair is shown through a series of memories, starting with the two sharing drinks in a pub two years after the affair had ended, leading the audience back to the very start of the relationship.
If I could only say one thing about Betrayal, it would be that the staging is absolutely beautiful. Director Maria Aitken does a wonderful job at making each scene intimate and raw. Instead of using the entire space, black screens block off all but a small portion of the stage, framing each scene like a movie shot. The screens close after every scene, projections announce the date and location, and then open again to reveal another section of the stage for the following scene. Every time the screens opened, it felt like a snapshot, a small peak into the lives of the characters. The set design was also extremely well done. Each set was simple but still retained the 1960’s style and feel.
The cast gave a believable performance that added to the intimacy of the play. In the beginning scene, there were some moments when the reactions or lines felt forced, but the quality of the performances improved as the play continued. As the play went backwards and forwards in time, the actors portrayed each character’s knowledge of the situation appropriately. The chemistry between the three main characters was also very believable, adding to the almost palpable tension onstage. Cox, in particular, gave a wonderfully subtle performance, playing both the deceiver and the deceived.
But most importantly, the characters were all sympathetic; there was no one antagonistic force. In a drama that is centered on an affair, the audience could have easily targeted one of the lovers as the “bad guy” and the delicate tension of the show would have disappeared. Rather, the conflict arose from love and what the characters had to do in order to keep it. It is here that I think that the writing of the play really shines. Pinter gives the audience information that the characters will lose as time moves backwards. This dramatic irony explains the actions of the characters throughout the play, and justifies some actions that seem out of character. Never did I feel like an outburst or a romantic quip was out of place or uncalled for. I cared about each relationship and could never decide what the right course of action should be.
The closing moment of Betrayal beautifully sums up the heart of the show. It takes place after Jerry has declared his love for Emma and it is clear that Emma feels similarly. After a run in with her husband Robert, Jerry takes Emma’s hand, they look into each other’s eyes and the scene freezes. The black screens that once framed the scene open completely, revealing the entirety of the backstage, the set pieces and furniture, and Robert outside the door, looking over his shoulder towards Emma. The play is finally stripped to its core: three people with their love and their memories.
Betrayal runs from Nov. 9 through Dec. 9, 2012 at the Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre. Visit huntingtontheatre.org for more information.