Betrayal – A Harold Splinter

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Betrayal, Photo Credit: Tessa Sollway Blishche

A REVIEW BY RIVER STYX

I’m a fan of Showtime’s “The Affair,” starring McNulty as a married-with-four-kids cad who gets it on with a married waitress, and then drama drama drama. I’m also a fan of Olivia Pope’s sexy storyline with the President on “Scandal,” and of reading celeb magazines detailing the private particulars of Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Jennifer Anniston; Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, and that nanny; Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Rhianna; and so on. Who doesn’t love a love triangle when you’re not in it?

Harold Pinter’s 1978 play Betrayal uses the salaciousness of an affair to focus on the torment and betrayals in the spaces between the (hopefully) hot, forbidden sex. Fells Point Corner Theatre is taking on this gem of a script through Nov. 8th. Directed by Andrew Porter — who quadruples as set designer, sound designer and president of FPCT – Pinter’s captivating script is honored in a thoughtfully staged production.

Pinter rewinds a seven-year affair between philanderers Emma (Ryan Gunning) and Jerry (Thom Eric Sinn), opening the play two years after the affair has ended. From here, each lie revealed in intimate realizations between Emma, Jerry and Emma’s husband, Robert (Gareth Kelly), slices like a razor. Successful and middle-aged Emma and Robert are good friends with Jerry and his wife Judith, the latter of whom we never see. At the top of the show/in hindsight of the affair Emma reveals to Jerry that Robert has been unfaithful and that she just told Robert of their affair (betrayal #1); Jerry finds out that Robert has known about the affair for years – Robert knew and never told him?! (betrayal #2) Emma lied about when she told Robert?! (betrayal #3); Publisher Robert tells Jerry he thinks Emma is now having an affair with one his writers (betrayal #4); and this is only in the first scene. Whew! Someone give me a cigarette.

Ryan Gunning as Emma is a gorgeous simmering of sadness. While about 10 years too young for the part, Gunning grabs ahold of her character, and bubbles with repressed torment. Word in the community theater circuit is the actress originally cast as Emma dropped out about three weeks before opening, which explains the age discrepancy between Gunning and the male leads and makes me that much more of a fan. Gareth Kelly does a fine job as Emma’s husband, Robert. Kelly brings out Robert’s veiled angst in smug grins and restrained delivery. I especially liked Gunning and Kelly in a Venetian hotel scene when Kelly surreptitiously confronts Emma about her affair with Jerry, played by Thom Eric Sinn. Sinn plays Jerry as somewhat bumbling and naïve, which works for the character. Unfortunately there isn’t much chemistry between he and Gunning, resulting in Sinn’s scenes with Kelly flowing better regardless of how straight-up sexy and beautiful Gunning is. Anthony Colavito has a cameo as a waiter, but he didn’t seem to get the same dialect support for his Italian pronunciation that the three leads got for their quite-good British accents. Shout out to dialect coach Elizabeth Forte Alman for those three. Snaps, also, to costume designer Anne Shoemaker (who doubles as stage manager) for the clothing choices, which are plentiful and appropriately streamlined, with costume changes almost every scene to show the progression of time and season.

Porter’s directing and music choices are solid, but the set needs editing. The two moveable flats serving as various monochromatic walls should be burned, and FPCT should celebrate the solid first two shows of its season with a bonfire and s’mores to make a good memory. No matter how compelling a scene was, sliding those damn flats during scene changes was grating. And, please, furniture movers, there are enough of you to pick up the damn dresser and chairs instead of sliding those assholes across the floor. The black rectangles (serving as paintings?) should also be trashed. They look like pieces of construction paper mistakenly left taped to the walls. Throw those in the celebratory bonfire.

BOTTOM LINE: FPCT’s production of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal is an attractive bit of theater – from the compelling script to the solid acting and directing, it’s more than worthwhile.

Running at Fells Point Corner Theater until November 8th

SECOND OPINION?

Review: Betrayal at Fells Point Corner Theatre

Contact Styx at:  riverstyxemail@gmail.com.

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