It’s probably a bit late to secure a reasonably priced seat for the hottest show in town (running ONLY through January 5th) but if you can you must see this exquisite and stylishly cold revival of Harold Pinter’s BETRAYAL (pauses intact) that seethes with inner hostilities, selfishness, dishonesty and deceptions staring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall and directed by Mike Nichols who still has that Midas touch.
Written in 1978, Pinter used a page from his life – a seven year clandestine affair that went unnoticed but certainly not unfelt to base this play on. Casting real life husband and wife in the roles of Robert (Daniel Craig) and Emma (Rachel Weisz) adds another voyeuristic layer to this absorbing drama that is presented in reverse chronological order in a swift ninety minutes.
With sharp, staccato dialogue we meet Gallery owner Emma and her ex-lover Jerry (an amazing Rafe Spall) a literary agent who is her publisher husband’s best and oldest buddy reuniting in a pub (1977).
Emma is now trysting with a new writer represented by Jerry and has finally told her husband the truth about Jerry as Robert is now shacking up with another woman and has known for quite awhile about the affair.
It’s all over. But it isn’t as we go back in time in nine scenes to 1968 in Robert and Emma’s bedroom where a pot smoking Emma and inebriated Jerry find themselves alone and together until Robert appears.
It’s a fascinating albeit creepy journey into the lives of these three self absorbed characters. Who knew what and when? How will they deal with the odd situation? Jerry is married to an unseen Judith and they have two children. Robert and Emma also have two children. Emma seems to be hopelessly in love with Jerry. All three betray and are betrayed. Tit for tat.
Rachel Weisz is stunningly beautiful and one can sense the animal attraction between Jerry and the wife of his closest friend Robert who as portrayed by Daniel Craig who is about to erupt at any given moment – baiting and brooding. But it is the character of Jerry that is most distasteful. Well, they are all distasteful as they connive behind closed doors.
One wonders why these people married in the first place. They seem to want both stability and freedom at all costs never thinking about whom they are hurting.
Harold Pinter’s structure is tight and at the time BETRAYAL was first produced truly original and innovative. It still works under the astute direction of Mr. Nichols who allows us to digest the emotion of each scene by having the various set pieces slowly slide in and flown down from the rafters in a fluid manner courtesy of scenic designer Ian MacNeil, and lighting designer Brian MacDevitt.
The projections of Venice by Finn Ross are spectacular along with the original music of James Murphy and costumes by Ann Roth.
Stephen DeRosa makes the most of his turn as an Italian waiter as he serves Robert and Jerry over a mostly liquid lunch.
This production of BETRAYAL deserves a much longer run. It is fantastic. The acting is real, honest and deeply emotional and you cannot help but be amazed at how you are drawn into their lives as they try to remember and make sense of what they have wrought.
At The Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
www.BetrayalBroadway.com Photos: Brigitte Lacombe
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