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Betrayal By Harold Pinter

Directed by Gregg W. Brevoort

Penobscot Theatre Company

Bangor, Maine

 

The Ellsworth American

Betrayed in Silence by Dan Radovich

PTC Offers Expert Rendition Of Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal”

–  “A powerful experience, both funny and gut-wrenching – often simultaneously”

BANGOR—When the space between words becomes more revealing—and more incriminating—than what is actually said on stage, you're either at a mime convention or a Harold Pinter play.

Luckily, thanks to Penobscot Theatre Company, it's the latter.

"Betrayal" is one of Pinter's most accessible plays. Under the direction of Gregg W. Brevoort, four talented performers and an excellent backstage crew succeed in making obvious why Pinter is one of the most important and influential playwrights of the 20th century.

Originally an actor, Pinter began writing plays in 1957. Since then he's written such modern classics as "The Birthday Party," "The Caretaker," "The Dumb Waiter," "The Homecoming" and "No Man's Land."

With "Betrayal," Pinter took what was essentially an autobiographical tale—a romantic triangle between a husband, a wife and a best friend—and created an unforgettable piece of theatre.

Premiering in 1978, the original London production provoked a scathing critical reception for what was perceived as a melodramatic theatrical throwback. Time has proven the critics wrong and illustrated two important axioms: "It's not what you say, but how you say it" and, this being Pinter, "It's not what you say, but what you don't say."

Told in reverse chronology and spanning nine years, "Betrayal" starts two years after the end of the affair between Emma and Jerry. It's a bittersweet meeting at a London pub with the two former lovers blowing on the cold embers of their relationship and finding no spark.

Emma's marriage to book publisher Robert, which had survived the seven-year adultery, is now finally crumbling. So, too, is the friendship between Robert and Jerry.

From this poignant starting point, the play travels back in time, visiting pivotal turning points in the relationship between these three characters.

We stop where the story actually begins—at a party with a kiss.

In between, Pinter dispassionately dissects these lives and exposes layer upon layer of betrayal, both literal and figurative.

Pinter's dialogue—especially in the opening scenes, until the play's rhythm establishes itselfs—seems as artificial as the rhyming verse in PTC's last offering, Moliere's "Tartuffe." Once it gets going, however, the production becomes a powerful experience, both funny and gut-wrenching—often simultaneously.

The first scene of Act II, an elliptical look at Robert and Emma on holiday in Venice, is one of the most powerful scenes in modern theatre—simple in its design, devastating in its effect. The scene's last line—when Robert asks Emma if she's looking forward to Torcello—hovers in the air like a palpable object.

The cast couldn't be better. Patrick Dizney brings an dreamy intensity to the role of Jerry. Although all the play's events follow from his initial actions, he seems even more rudderless than the rest of the cast. He sets things in motion but is never in control.

David Sitler's Robert is a conflicted study of quick anger and coiled passivity.

And Rita Rehn, as Emma, expertly runs a gamut of emotions over the course of the play.

The stage design is functional and minimal, just what the production calls for.

If there's any justice in the world, PTC will find itself with another success on its hands. You owe it to yourself to see this classic of modern English drama from Harold Pinter, the father of the theatrical pregnant pause.

“Betrayal” is at Penobscot Theatre Company’s 183 Main Street theater in Bangor Thursdays through Sundays through April 21. Tickets/information: 942-3333.