Entertainment » Theatre


by Christopher Verleger
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Feb 2, 2017
Tanya Anderson and Tom Chace
Tanya Anderson and Tom Chace  

Like Beckett, Stoppard and Ionesco, Harold Pinter is one of those playwrights whose brilliance cannot be denied even when you don't fully understand it. His writing can be especially dense ("No Man's Land") or baffling ("The Birthday Party"), yet nevertheless, unfailingly ingenious.

The Wilbury Theatre Group's deeply engaging, unabashedly intimate production of his arguably most recognized play, "Betrayal," reminds both Pinter admirers and detractors of the playwright's well-deserved status in the canon of great theater.

Based on Pinter's own experience, "Betrayal" recounts the events in reverse order of a seven-year extramarital affair between Jerry (David Tessier), a literary agent, and Emma (Tanya Anderson), the wife of his best friend, Robert (Tom Chace), a publisher.

When the play begins, Jerry and Emma meet for the first time in two years, making pleasantries despite the palpable tension and awkwardness until she reveals she told Robert the night before about their affair. Later that day, a perplexed Jerry learns from Robert that he had known about it for the last four years and that Emma made no such admission the prior evening.

Each segment thereafter presents a brief albeit significant moment in time, including when Jerry learns Emma is pregnant, Emma confessing to Robert that she and Jerry are lovers, and Jerry and Emma's final visit to the flat when they decide to end their relationship.

All along, the clock is turning back, and while this storytelling method poses a challenge, it ultimately helps the audience better understand each member of this triad's temperament and how guilty they all are of dishonesty towards the other two.

Aubrey Snowden craftily directs the cast on a tiny stage that deliberately prevents any substantive movement, with varied entrances and exits via three towering, revolving glass doors. Much like the situation the characters find themselves in, the effect is almost suffocating, but in the best way possible, and by that I mean it left me breathless.

Furthermore, the audience intrusively bears witness to the interplay from both sides, as though the actors were moving pictures at an exhibition, rather than thinking, feeling individuals.

Wilbury vet Tessier is magnificent as Jerry, the shy, sensitive infidel, unable to repress his feelings for Emma, yet mostly unforgiving of himself. As his male counterpart, Chace delivers a masterful performance as Robert, whose stoic, surly disposition leaves him seemingly and ironically the least scarred by the affair.

Completing the love triangle, Anderson's delicately layered, exquisite portrayal of Emma personifies that of a woman capable of separating her questionable behavior from her own conscience. The three actors' impressive performances complement each other beautifully and rhythmically.

In only seventy-five minutes, and in reverse chronology no less, "Betrayal" provides the audience with a scale model example of emotional dysfunction worthy of a textbook. Several nights later, I'm still recovering from The Wilbury Group's intense, compelling production.

"Betrayal" runs thru February 17 at The Wilbury Theatre Group, 393 Broad Street in Providence. For information and tickets, call 401-400-7100 or visit www.TheWilburyGroup.org

Chris is a voracious reader and unapologetic theater geek from Narragansett, Rhode Island.


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