Betrayal is a surprisingly suspenseful look at the effects of being betrayed by the people we love. Considered to be one of playwright Harold Pinter’s most dramatic and engaging plays, Betrayal starts at the end of a 7-year affair and works backwards. In reverse chronological order, we are introduced to our characters several years after the affair ended. We first meet Emma (Melanie Nelson) and Jerry (Jared Larkin). Jerry is Robert’s (Roger Dunbar) oldest friend and was the best man at Emma and Robert’s wedding. He was the 7-year lover of Emma.
(Pictured Roger Dunbar, Melanie Nelson and Jared Larkin).
In the first scene we learn that Emma has discovered that Robert has been unfaithful to her and worries that her marriage is over. Because of this, she has contacted Jerry, whom she hasn’t seen in years. From there, we travel back in time with these three individuals. One might expect to be taken into secret rendezvous and stolen glances and indeed we are but Pinter does an amazing job creating a suspenseful story even though we know how it all turns out. Instead, we are captivated with the mystery of how it all began. Pinter is brilliant at weaving small details along the way so that the audience is actively engaged in piecing things together and connecting the dots. Yet, he is smart enough never to hand things to us on the plate, rather letting us discover the connections.
Betrayal captures the fickle self-absorbed side of a group of people who actually have the nerve to be incensed at their spouse’s extramarital affairs while being hypocritical in their own deceptions. At the same time, it’s easy to feel compassion and a connection with each one to the characters throughout the show.
As the layers unfold we become privy to the subtle emotions that Emma, Robert and Jerry all experience at different stages of their relationships. First, a nod to Dialect Coach Ron Frederickson – amazingly, Nelson, Dunbar and Larkin all pull of a brilliant English accent. Nelson seemed to display the most non-verbal emotions of the night. Her physical transformation and wordless emotions were displayed consistently but were most powerful as Dunbar played head games with her after he had come to suspect the affair. Having seen Nelson in several other Pinnacle productions, it was a treat to see her versatility and talent on stage again.
Dunbar does an excellent job conveying a relaxed and resigned husband facing the potential end of his marriage when we first meet him to the angry and passive-aggressive man that refuses to confront either his wife or his friend. The scene with him and Jerry at the restaurant showcased Dunbar’s controlled and methodical portrayal of this struggling man. To Pinter’s credit, it was easy to sympathize with him but knowing that he was just as guilty of betrayal caused quite the juxtaposition of emotions.
The direction by Alexandra Harbold was incredibly well paced and staged. Even the transitions had a sense of theatrical quality to them. They were seamless, timed well and had an easy flow to them. The only suggestion here would be to have the actors not break character so quickly in a transition. This is the standard but I’ve seen productions where the characters remain fully in character as they leave the stage. I saw glimpses of this at the beginning of some scenes and it made me want more.
The set was simple and with the amount of scene changes the pieces worked wonderfully and did an excellent job in creating unique and different locations. The simplicity allowed for smooth transitions and greater focus on the story. Often the difference between an excellent production and a good production is in the details. Pinnacle always does a great job pausing for a breath, allowing moments to sink in and adding that extra touch to the props or set. For example, the color and even consistency of the different alcohols consumed were so real that as we left we actually talked about this detail.
Betrayal runs just about an hour and half with a 10-minute intermission – which I would consider leaving out. With such a short run time the flow and rhythm would be better suited without the interruption.
Pinnacle is easily on my list of top 5 theaters. It’s conveniently located in a prime location for the south end of the valley (where I live) so we don’t have to drive down town and fight with parking. And for those commuting from a further distance – the journey would be well worth the production excellence you’re nearly always guaranteed to get. I have yet to attend a production at Pinnacle Acting Company that I haven’t loved and Betrayal is no exception.
Betrayal is playing through May 12th with Pinnacle Acting Company at the Midvale Performing Arts Center located in Midvale at 695 West Center Street (7720 South). For more information or to purchase tickets ($13-$15) visit their website at www.PinnacleActingCompany.com