Off Broadway West Stages Comeback with Harold Pinter’s Betrayal

Brian O’Connor and Sylvia Kratins in Betrayal. Photo by Adam Simpson

Off Broadway West Theatre Company is delighted to present the revival of this great classic here on the west coast as its first full production after a year’s hiatus of successful staged readings.

Betrayal begins in 1977 with a meeting between adulterous lovers, Emma (Sylvia Kratins) and Jerry (Brian O’Connor), two years after their affair has ended.  The play ends as we move back in time through nine scenes of the play to 1968 in the house of Emma and her husband Robert (Keith Burkland) who is also Jerry’s best friend.

The betrayal Pinter explores is far more complex than the standard love triangle and Director Richard Harder exposes its multiple facets with the precision of a diamond cutter.  Betrayal is a wonderful introduction to Pinter’s innovative method of developing a play by dramatizing the behavior of his characters in such a way that the audience must patch together the full story and decide for themselves which character, if any, should have their allegiance.  This requires good listening skills for Pinter’s characters speak a dialogue filled with pauses that are often more meaningful than the spoken words.

Although all three actors do a marvelous job portraying their characters convincingly and consistently, Sylvia Kratins tackles the play’s more challenging role with striking emotional clarity. Her Emma is a woman torn between husband and lover who must justify lying to Robert, but more significantly, must justify lying to herself.  We see in Emma a dynamic character that evolves from an innocent girl into a haunted, bitter woman.  Burkland’s Robert is particularly impressive in conveying the darkness that makes him the sort of man who’s not above hitting his wife.  Brian O’Connor’s Jerry is charming but very much smug about considering anything beyond an affair impossible.

Bert van Aalsburg’s set is sparse-a pub, a sitting room, a hotel room–each is suggested only by chairs and a table.

By the final episode, which is the beginning of the story, but the end of the play, the three actors have infused their now youthful characters with glowingly exuberant energy.

Critics and audiences made Betrayal one of London’s most popular plays when it premiered in 1978. It won several major awards including the Olivier Award for Best New Play and the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award.

Betrayal runs at Off Broadway West Theater Company, June 21-July 20, 2013.  The times are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. The place is the Phoenix Theatre, Suite 601, 414 Mason St. (between Geary and Post), San Francisco. For tickets, call 800-838-3006 or go online at www.offbroadwest.org.

Coming up next at Off Broadway West will be The Weir by Conor McPherson, November 7-December 7, 2013.

Flora Lynn Isaacson