Scott Rudin, Barry Diller, Eli Bush, Jon B. Platt, Roger Berlind
Exec. Producers: Joey Parnes, S.D. Wagner, John Johnson
Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz
A Play by Harold Pinter
Directed by Mike Nichols
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47th Street
Scenic Design: Ian MacNeil
Costume Design: Ann Roth
Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt
Sound Design: Scott Lehrer
Original Music: James Murphy
Video Design: Finn Ross
Hair, Wigs, Makeup Design:
Campbell Young & Luc Verschueren
US Casting: Cindy Tolan
Production Stage Manager: Jill Cordle
Company Manager: Penelope Daulton
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 30, 2013
I vividly remembered “Betrayal”, the 1983 screenplay, with the intense Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley in the two male roles, and remembered less, Patricia Hodge, in the female role of this reverse-timed dramatization of an extra-marital affair. I remembered being drawn in, emotionally and psychically. I remembered that every affair or relationship has its silver linings, those moments in memory that keep the heart burning, when the candle burns low. Women (and probably men) keep photos, keepsakes, a restaurant menu, a shawl, something as a souvenir (which literally translates to a recollection), to momentarily revive that quintessential flame. Yet, tonight, in Mike Nichols’ directorial production, there was loud, tense laughter, intermittently, throughout the play. It was distracting and a result of a sitcom-ish sense to the brisk, Pinter repartee, that seemed more smarmy than sly.
The 1978 play, Betrayal, written after the married Pinter’s own seven-year affair with a then-married woman, is set in 1977, looking backward to 1968.
Three strong actors are requisite to the characters’ charisma and bonding, as they are all close, in different ways. Emma (Rachel Weisz) and Robert (Daniel Craig) are the married couple (also married off-stage as well), and Jerry (Rafe Spall) is Robert’s best friend and lunching-drinking-squash companion, as well as Emma’s secret lover. The “current” spring, 1977 first scene is a two-year reunion for Emma and Jerry in a pub, discussing Emma and Robert’s failing marriage and mutual disclosures of infidelity. The play moves to a later spring meeting of Robert and Jerry, where Jerry is told Robert’s known of Emma and Jerry’s affair for four years and never revealed this to Jerry, as we now know Robert’s had his own flings, and so on.
The nine brief scenes proceed mostly backwards, with three scenes in a private flat for Emma and Jerry’s affair, with a lace tablecloth that Emma bought in Venice, on a trip with Robert, also evoked in scene five, 1973. The affair begins in 1968, during a party at Robert and Emma’s house, and with recreational drugs and liquor being consumed, Jerry waits for Emma in her bedroom, even after Robert catches them alone. A minor role brings out an Italian waiter (Stephen DeRosa) in scene seven, 1973, with Robert and Jerry working their way through fine Italian wine and lavish courses. This scene, more than most, showcased the corners of complicated relationships, with Robert and Jerry so conversationally connected.
Mike Nichols, as noted above, seems to have strengthened the pounce of the actors’ one-liners, as Pinter’s dialogues are built. The audience, at times, annoyingly responded (more than appropriately) to these one-liners, as if the scenes were skits. I must say, some of the lines were presented for irony and bon-mot, probably a twist of directorial design. The acting ensemble (even the waiter) was crisply timed, utterly fascinating, and enthralling. Of the three, I found Mr. Craig the most interesting, as his character, the betrayed spouse, had many emotional layers, relating to his own secret escapades and his need for afternoon conviviality with the very man who sparked the original betrayal. Also fascinating was the scenic design, by Ian MacNeil, which was lowered from the rafters and rolled in from the wings in various dimensions and stylings, nine times. Ann Roth’s costumes brought back the look of the late sixties and seventies, and Brian MacDevitt’s lighting was always clear and absorbing, as was Scott Lehrer’s sound design. Kudos to Harold Pinter.