Review Roundup: BETRAYAL Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
Tonight's the night as Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Rafe Spall open on Broadway in Harold Pinter's Betrayal, directed by ten-time Tony Award-winner Mike Nichols at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The highly-anticipated production is a strictly limited engagement, running 14 weeks only, through January 5, 2014.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: "A respectable stage actor before he became 007, [Craig] brings the same fierce intensity to talking that he does to zipping across moving trains and zapping supervillains. Not that such overt intensity is exactly what "Betrayal" asks for, but never mind. As for Ms. Weisz, she looks smashing. And let me add that she, Mr. Craig and Mr. Spall seem to be having the kind of rowdy old time you associate with moldy British sex farces, though that's a genre in which I would never before have thought to include "Betrayal...this is not a "Betrayal" to leave you brooding and melancholy about our capacity to wound one another and to reach out, hopelessly and heroically, for a sustenance in others that they can never provide...this is a sexed-up "Betrayal," which is not the same as a sexy "Betrayal." All those contradictory, fleeting, haunting shades of thought that you expect to see playing on the features of Pinter's characters are nowhere in evidence. Instead, Robert, Emma and Jerry make up the rowdiest, most extroverted sexual triangle since Liza Minnelli, Burt Reynolds and Gene Hackman caterwauled their way through the ill-fated film "Lucky Lady" in 1975."
David Cote, Time Out New York: "It was a troubled marriage from the start, but no one knew. Old hand Mike Nichols, who did such magnificent work on Death of a Salesman,seemed a sound choice to direct the starry Broadway revival of Pinter's 1978 play about infidelity. Daniel Craig hadn't shrunken a bit from his years in front of the camera as Agent 007; he was even able to electrify vastly inferior stage material in 2009's cop melodrama A Steady Rain.And Craig wasn't acting in a vacuum: Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall are both appealing performers. The drama itself, while of its time, is not essentially dated. It's simply that no one got the tone right."
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: "Anyone who shelled out the big bucks to see James Bond in the flesh will get more than they bargained for in Mike Nichols' impeccable revival of "Betrayal." They'll be getting a powerful performance fromDaniel Craig, a movie star who still has his stage legs. Rachel Weisz, Craig's wife in the real world, and Rafe Spall, both superb, claim much of the stage time as the adulterous lovers in this enigmatic 1978 play that Harold Pinter based on one of his own extramarital affairs. But it's the smoldering Craig, as the cuckolded husband, whose brooding presence is overpowering. "
Robert Hofler, The Wrap: "Weisz and Spall are so charming and engaging throughout that a palpable sadness settles over the Barrymore Theatre late in the play when we see them so physically and romantically engaged in the flat they've rented...It's a marvel of acting to watch Craig slowly bring the subtext of raging anger to the fore in scene after scene as Spall and Weisz effectively react with knowing silence..."
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: "Craig, his famously chiseled features half-hidden under a '70s shag, seems oddly blasé about his wife's infidelity, while Weisz strikes a lovely if tentative balance between expressive physicality and inward control. Spall has the best handle on his character's inchoate and conflicted feelings, particularly in his drunken declaration of love at the end of the play (and the beginning of the affair)...Perhaps because Pinter's backwards structure forces him to seed each scene with clues to his puzzle-like plot, there's an off-putting guardedness to the main trio. They regard their emotions from a safe distance, as if with hands safely tucked into pockets. Unable to engage with each other, they may prove a challenge for audiences to embrace as well."
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: "...Sadly, though, this new production of a very different 20th-century classic, which opened Sunday at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, doesn't pack as much punch as you'd hope it would...Too often, this Betrayal seems to make the same statement as its marketing campaign. We're reminded that we are watching great thea-tuh, staged by a prestigious company, rather than being titillated or moved by the longing and anguish and bile that courses through the play's triangle...Craig is crisp and robust throughout, deftly illustrating Robert's capacity for menace, and he and Spall have some witty fun with the festering rivalry between the two buddies. But at length, their exchanges - while absorbing enough for those who enjoy watching educated Brits struggle with their feelings - never really draw blood."
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: "Craig is suave and collegial as Robert, a London book publisher. Spall is hungry and rough-edged in a sexually magnetic way as his best friend Jerry, a writers' agent. Rachel Weisz is extraordinary as Robert's wife and Jerry's lover, her face registering with exquisite exactitude every conflicted emotion Emma feels over the course of the seven-year affair well. Mike Nichols's devastating production is above all a showcase for this terrific actress...Nichols has calibrated each of those 100 minutes to strike a nerve. You quickly forget you're watching capital-S Stars. The show has more urgency than the Broadway original or the very good 1983 film. I wish the tickets didn't require a second mortgage and the audience weren't restricted to the very wealthy or the very lucky. But this production will stay with me as few others."
Jesse Green, Vulture: "A very tasteful, tranquil, and often beautiful performance of Betrayal begins. Its style is best exemplified by Ian MacNeil's scenery - a series of translucent boxes that fit within one another like Matryoshka dolls and float into place as scene succeeds scene. Or do scenesprecede scenes? Both, really. Though the standard description of Pinter's "reverse chronology" is inaccurate (people don't speak backward, and several scenes in a row actually move forward) the overall trajectory is indeed toward the past...A bigger problem is the surprising lack of detail in the acting. Craig delivers a solid performance; he's smart and emphatic and deeply engaged, but not psychologically nuanced. (I'd like to see him in The Homecoming.) Weisz gives Emma a petulant spin that makes her seem a bit unlikely as the fulcrum of the ménage. (Well, she does look great.) The two feel deployed, not exposed. Spall, though, is sensational. He renders Jerry's various selves (randy, sexy, selfish, sulky, self-justifying) not as a series of poses but as a solid-state condition: the blur of traits by which great acting impersonates personality."
Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times: "...For much of Weisz's performance, Emma's eyes are frosted glass. Yet the character's inscrutability isn't a particularly powerful stance. Unlike Craig's Robert, who appears opaque for the same reason an invading soldier dresses in camouflage, Weisz's Emma, perpetually in retreat, seems to be acting more in defense than offense...this "Betrayal" is a decidedly male affair, and Craig and Spall live up to the expectations that have surrounded this most anticipated production of the New York fall season. Whether the work justifies such exorbitant ticket prices is another story."
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: "Superbly acted by Rachel Weisz, Daniel Craig and Rafe Spall, the production sparkles in its simple, powerful beauty. The fact that Craig and Weisz are married in real life adds a dash of spice to performances roiling under the surface...Weisz is luminous - pitiful in a scene when she confesses her affair, toussled and off-kilter when in deep infatuation and yet also coolly disconnected in a scene in her love nest at the end of the secret relationship. Craig still has some 007 swagger about him but it falls away in scenes when his cuckold anger keeps bubbling beneath his calm surface...But it's Spall, making his Broadway debut, who perhaps shines the brightest as the best friend who wears his emotions on his sleeve the most. Spall is jittery and passionate and conveys the horror and paranoia of a man hiding his true feelings to both his best friend and the man's wife."
Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: "Mike Nichols' skilfully staged yet only sporadically effective Broadway production of Harold Pinter's 1978 drama, Betrayal, starring Daniel Craig and his real-life wife, Rachel Weisz, as well as Rafe Spall, is not only an ewent: it's a theatrical assemblage that quickly sold out its run. The show's copywriters describe the demand as "unprecedented", but, really, all those $400-plus tickets, and the hand-wringing they occasion, are old news. The prices are worth noting in this instance only because what many people pay is out of balance with what they see on the Barrymore stage."
Linda Winer, Newsday: "As [Daniel] Craig proved to Broadway when he played a quietly desperate cop in "A Steady Rain" in 2009, the actor is far more than Bond, James Bond. As Robert, a book publisher, he begins with a dapper, sardonic edge and lets us watch that famous granite profile crumble...If Pinter wrote in cool, witty line drawings, Nichols colors them in with robust clarity and broadens the wit to sex-comedy humor. Where Pinter leaves us to question the depth of Robert's distress, Nichols clears that up by having Craig sloppy drunk by the time Jerry arrives for lunch. When we finally see the first frisson of Jerry and Emma's affair in 1968, Nichols piles on the time-machine cliches by getting them high on marijuana...Pinter liked to say that 'life is more mysterious than plays make it out to be.' By probing too many psychological motivations, Nichols makes these people understandable but awfully ordinary."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: "In the Internet age of sexting scandals and tabloid humiliation, infidelity without public shaming seems almost quaint. So why is Harold Pinter's 1978 play, Betrayal, still such a bristling drama? Its structural brilliance, for one thing, tracking an adulterous triangle in reverse chronology that stretches back nine years and uncovers as many mysteries as it solves. It also doesn't hurt to have actors like Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall at the absolute top of their game. Likewise, director Mike Nichols, who coaxes his cast to mirror their characters, carefully parsing every word for hidden meaning. In a play largely about what's unsaid, that makes for thrilling theater."
Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune:" Despite the play's reputation as an exquisite fusion of simmering menace and incontrovertible sexual desire, the haunting, richly textured Broadway revival of Harold Pinter's backward-traveling "Betrayal" has been infused with an aching ennui by the redoubtable Mike Nichols, a director who has lived long enough to have seen that even adultery grows old, and the aging adulterers sad and pathetic. Run an affair through the relentless wringer of time and it becomes as confining as a marriage...[Rafe] Spall is, of course, much lesser known than his A-list co-stars, but it is Spall who runs off with the show at its crucial junctures, an imbalance that strikes me as perfect for "Betrayal," and, frankly, very much to the credit of these actors. With the wily Nichols putting the wind in their sails, Craig and Weisz, both of whom are up for the exposure, are engaging in a little deconstruction of their celebrity marriage as well as probing the inevitable terror felt by the established and the over-40 when some virile youngster comes nipping at his heels."
David Cote, The Guardian: "Daniel Craig shucks off his 007 persona to become Robert, a successful book publisher whose wife, Emma (Rachel Weisz) conducts a seven-year affair with Robert's friend Jerry (Rafe Spall), a literary agent. The compact, rugged Craig hasn't shrunken from years behind the camera: he projects himself fully and muscularly to the back stalls. Craig even enlivened vastly inferior material when last he was on the Great White Way, in the 2009 police melodrama A Steady Rain. And he's not emoting in a vacuum: Weisz and Spall have charisma to spare, not to mention keen sexual chemistry for their Kilburn flat trysts. So the design is lovely, the cast is appealing and the play itself, while of its time, is not essentially dated. It's simply that nobody gets the tone...I can't recommend this event to anyone who loves Pinter or Betrayal. If you don't care and you've got a few hundred burning a hole in your pocket, then have at it. But for goodness' sake, don't watch the 1983 movie starring Patricia Hodge, Jeremy Irons and Sir Ben Kingsley too soon after. It is an ideal transfer of play to film, and impeccably acted. If you were to screen it after seeing this glossy, empty revival, you'd feel cheated."
Tom Teodorczuk, The Independent: "Although this production never catches its breath to reveal the slow-burning ashes of the past that the play usually makes vivid, knockout performances from both Craig and Weisz render it a Betrayal on fire. Nichols's crude and chaotic depiction of the love triangle is powerfully compelling theatre - enhanced, one feels, by the real-life frisson supplied by the onstage sparring of Weisz and Craig...the juxtaposition of Pinter's starkly precise dialogue with such a frenzied production reinforces the emotional violence and dishonesty suffered by all three protagonists. It would be a shame if this fine production didn't come home to London where the play first began."
Matt Windman, AM New York: "Nichols' gloomy production features huge scenic pieces that fly up and down in between scenes, uncomfortably dwarfing this intimate drama. But the real problem lies in the fact that Nichols never really captures the elusive spark of mystery found in the best Pinter revivals, such as the 2007 Broadway staging of "The Homecoming" and "The Caretaker" with Jonathan Pryce, which played BAM last year. Weisz and Spall offer fine, subtle performances, while Craig occasionally gets to show off a considerably more relaxed air and ends up being the liveliest of the trio."
Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: "No one ever thinks of Pinter as a chronicler of romance. But this is the most devastating, clear-eyed examination of the arc of a love affair as I've seen"
Matt Wolf, Telegraph: "YOU have to applaud Daniel Craig, a film icon (thank you, James Bond) who began in the theatre and returns there still. Across the Atlantic, he's been the best thing about his two New York stage ventures to date, and when Craig is allowed to feast on the emotionally famished world of Harold Pinter's Betrayal, audiences at this Broadway season's most-anticipated offering are unlikely to feel let down."
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Like cheaters slinking around in the night, Nichols' production moves quietly and purposefully. During his long career, Nichols has proven himself a master of intricate intimacy. He knows how to zero in on humor and pain and make it all burrow deep into your skin. And into your brain. It's a play in which everyone loses - except the audience.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: At the end, which is the beginning, Jerry is carefree and daring. We already know a decade of lies and cheating awaits. This is the kind of insight that makes "Betrayal" a play worth revisiting - its very structure encourages multiple viewings. Just not at $500 a pop.
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe