Vermont Stage, Burlington VT
Wednesday, January 29 through Sunday, February 9, 2003
Ever since I saw the original production of THE CARETAKER in New York, more years ago than I care to mention, I've been a fan of Harold Pinter's plays. BETRAYAL, first produced in 1978, is a tale of lies and betrayals. It's told in 9 scenes played in reverse chronology. The play answers the age-old question, "How did we end up like this?"
Pinter has commented that the play is about memory and youth and loss. His work is often referred to as "grotesquely funny", and BETRAYAL is no exception. The repartee couldn't have come from any other writer, especially the squash metaphor.
Pinter once said, "One way of looking at speech is to say it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness." From Jerry's line to Emma, "You remember the form. I ask about your husband, you ask about my wife," through the repetitious circularity of the dialogue, it is apparent that the meaning is not so much in the words, but in the pauses and body language. Although there's a constant harking back with "Do you remember," everyone remembers differently, so everyone is again betrayed, this time by their own memories.
Mark Evancho's minimalist set and subtle lighting are both excellent, and I particularly liked the interesting backdrop. A small kvetch- is it possible to leave the projections up a couple of seconds longer? They're a bit tricky to read.
Angela Brande has done a nice job with the costumes. In one scene she's provided Emma with a beautifully cut cape, and what a good idea to costume the two carefully choreographed stagehands as waiters!
Pinter is not for amateurs and these three actors are anything but. They all handle the British dialect with ease. As for Christen Clifford she lets us see both Emma's strength and her vulnerability. Besides being a good actress she has great cheekbones. Bradford Cover makes the complex character of Jerry understandable and even sympathetic. In the final scene you can see the truth of his feeling for Emma in his eyes. Artistic Director Mark Nash makes a splendid Robert. Totally self-contained, he never lets go of either his posture or his squash game. He and Mr. Cover are especially good together in the restaurant scene.
Director Beatrice Terry has done a masterful job of helping the actors find not only the sub-text of the play, but also its humor. She's also made excellent choices of music between the scenes. Miss Terry has used the intimacy of the FlynnSpace to good advantage, and the audience can see every nuance in this very solid production of a difficult play.
What begins as a fairly mundane affair between a woman and her husband's best friend ends, because of the reverse chronology, having revealed a multitude of betrayals both large and small. This is a play that will not only make you feel, it will make you think.
On a scale of one to five, the Vermont Stage production of BETRAYAL gets four
and three-fourths ferryboats. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.