Review: BETRAYAL at Katonah Classic Stage

A Pinter Festival in The Hudson Valley? Yes, it's true!

By: Oct. 15, 2023
Review: BETRAYAL at Katonah Classic Stage

When I heard that The Katonah Classic stage was doing a Harold Pinter Festival, I was pleasantly surprised! Pinter in the Hudson Valley? The last time I saw any Pinter was on a long-ago trip to London. I am happy to see that KCS, a not-for-profit, professional theatre company, is staying true to its mission of “offering exceptional, collaborative, diverse, and professional productions of classical and contemporary plays with a core commitment to Shakespeare and other master dramatists.”

The first play of the trio of plays is Pinter’s 1978 classic, Betrayal. The plot follows the seven-year affair between Jerry, a London literary agent and Emma, an art gallery owner. What makes Betrayal tense and emotionally complex, is Pinter's trick of telling the story backwards.
The first scene is a reunion
in a pub in 1977, two years after the affair is over. The last scene is a party, in 1968, nine years before, when an inebriated Jerry declares his love to Emma in her bedroom. Two and three-character scenes are weaved in between with Emma's publisher husband, Robert, who is also Jerry's best friend and business associate. Jerry's wife never appears.

By reversing the clock, Pinter examines the destructive process rather than the outcome of the affair. The betrayal is already finished as the play begins. The beginning of the play is the end of things for the characters, the end of the affair and the marriage, while the end of the play shows us the beginning of the action, Jerry’s coming on to Emma, that sets this destruction in motion.

We are compelled to piece together the sequence of events along with the characters. There are clues that Pinter puts in the play; a tablecloth brought back from Venice or the age of Emma’s son Ned, so captive audience members can follow the action backward and observe the three times when it moves forward.

The cast is first-rate and thoroughly British in accent and manner.
The terrific Trent Dawson gives Jerry a youthful exuberance that makes his ability to keep a secret seem like a lucky accident.
The intriguing Claire Karpen plays Emma, a character more expert than Jerry at hiding her thoughts. But she also allows us to see unspoken ideas in her face and gives her a nervousness that contradicts the calm she tries to project. She also becomes noticeably younger as the action moves back in time.

The wonderful Richard Hollis plays Robert with an inner rage that is held tightly in check. His face is composed, yet good at showing Robert's smirking, and sometimes laser-eyed silences.
The delightful Sam Rodd makes the most of his part as an Italian waiter in an amusing scene in an Italian restaurant.

Daniel Gerroll’s direction brings out the best in Pinter’s writing and maintains perfect pace and timing while incorporating the famous pauses inherent to the play. The cast shined under his smart direction.

Laura Valenti’s set makes excellent use of the stage, morphing into the play’s numerous locations, and the projections which mark the descending years, are very helpful.
The simple set achieves the maximum effect on stage. Certain furniture pieces and some key props are strategically placed and sounds are all that is needed to tell apart the seven locations. John Gromada’s sound design incorporates an absolutely perfect selection of ambient sounds.
Riley Cavanaugh’s lighting evokes the play’s many moods. 
Tracy Christiansen’s well-chosen costumes tell us our direction in time by making Emma and Robert seem younger as the play progresses. Jerry wears the same costume throughout the play as we experience the memories that Jerry has repressed.
Kudos to Technical Director Eric Zoback for his outstanding work. Lauren Nicole Jackson contributed her considerable skills as Stage Manager.

This production does justice to Pinter’s brilliant dialogue. There are also the famed “Pinter pauses,” moments in which the unspoken speaks volumes, as well as when a character’s words and eyes say two different things. This is a terrific play, filled with seething emotions of longing, confusion, pain, and a deep sense of all kinds of betrayal at all levels.
I’m eager to see more of his work as interpreted by Katonah Classic Stage.
Luckily, we have two more Pinter classics to look forward to. The Dumb Waiter and Applicant. Both are co-produced with Pacific Resident Theatre of Los Angeles.  Don't miss this great opportunity to experience Pinter's works!
The Festival runs through October 29.

Whippoorwill Theatre (North Castle Public Library) Kent Place in Armonk, NY 10540
The details for all shows are on their website: Click Here
Phone: 844-527-7469. Email:

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From This Author - Pia Haas

Pia Haas reviews Arts events for Local publications. She has been involved in Theatre for over 40 years as a  Performer/Director/ Artistic Director/Technicnician/ of Academic, Community, off-Broa... Pia Haas">(read more about this author)


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