BWW Review: Filigree Theatre Delivers Icy BETRAYAL
There is an impressive surgical precision behind The Filigree Theatre's current production of Harold Pinter's autobiographical play, BETRAYAL. Produced world-wide since its premiere in London in 1978, BETRAYAL is a play with an impressive pedigree. Produced in London of course, the US, Spain, Turkey, and even Hong Kong, and starring the likes of Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Kristin Scott Thomas, BETRAYAL is a sort of masterclass play for actors.
Beginning in 1977, two years after their affair has ended, and Emma (Emily Rankin) has moved on to yet another affair, Emma and Jerry (David Moxham) meet at a pub discuss their previous affair. Presumably, Emma, who is married to Jerry's best friend Robert (J. Kevin Smith) has only the night before revealed their affair to her husband. In truth, Robert has known about their affair for four years, as Jerry learns later that afternoon when he visits Robert. Emma and Jerry had carried their affair on for five years, renting a flat to meet while naively believing their own spouses to be faithful. From here at the end, Pinter unravels the affair in reverse chronological order, ending the play at the beginning of the affair. As the play progresses, or - regresses, we learn that betrayal happens in many forms, in many ways, for this triangle. Was it when Robert discovered the affair two years before Emma decided to tell Jerry that Robert even knew? Was it also when Robert does the math and realizes one of his children may not be his own? Is it when Emma reveals to Jerry that the child is not his? Has Jerry betrayed Robert for not telling his best friend? It all sounds so much like the Young and The Restless, but it's not. It's a play about the people who betray each other, and it is difficult, particularly since the play is written in reverse chronology, to become swept away by the drama of infidelity so much as the pain that betrayal can cause.
Pinter explores betrayal with icy precision and Director Elizabeth V. Newman's BETRAYAL is rife with the requisite Pinter-esque pauses that emphasize his economical dialogue. Rankin gives Emma rather a standoffish air that hides the character's pain quite well, David Moxham's Jerry seems to feel poorly for making a cuckold of his best friend, even as he gushes to Emma in the last scene that his attraction to her makes an affair inevitable. It's J. Kevin Smith who really nails the underlying passion in the text though, effectively portraying Robert with the underlying rage that the entire situation deserves. His portrayal allows for us to laugh in all the right places, too, and in much needed relief, without ever betraying (pun intended) the seriousness of the script. The danger of such tightly wound characters and the subtlety required of this script can make can make for a rather cerebral evening if not executed with chemistry and some warmth. The challenge here is to create characters worth caring for in the face of their egotism. If this production is to be faulted, it is perhaps for giving us such tightly wound performances that it can feel like they don't deserve our investment as audience members. As a result, Jerry's initial attraction to Emma seems almost unjustified and overly dramatic. Nonetheless, this production is executed with impressive precision, and remains professionally faithful to Pinter's style.
The set is also economical and no nonsense, though on opening night the scene changes dragged a little (this will certainly improve as the run progresses). Ryan Salinas's lighting design is clean and no nonsense, and Keli W. Pollarine's costume design is fairly faithful to the period without reverting to the outlandish iconic clothing of the 70's.
BETRAYAL is not light-hearted fare. This is a juicy topic to consider, and a play written by an iconic modern playright. It may not be for the casual theatre goer, nor is the play for your average theatre company. Filigree is certainly not that, and has done an impressive job of producing this version of BETRAYAL.
September 28 - October 08, 2017
Santa Cruz Center For Culture
1805 E. 7th Street
Austin, TX, 78702
Sept 28 - Oct 8th 2017
Thurs - Sat 8 pm; Sundays 5 pm
Running Time: 90 minutes with a fifteen minute intermission