MIDVALE — Harold Pinter is considered one of the most influential playwrights of modern British Theater; Betrayal is one of his best known plays. Written in 1978, Pinter himself adapted it to the screen in 1983. As presented at Pinnacle Acting Company, it is a very interesting view into the history of an affair.
Betrayal is the story of an affair between two married individuals told in reverse, from the breakup back to the first kiss. Pinter captures the natural rhythm of conversation (I would say a particularly British rhythm of conversation) with all of its starts, stops, and awkward pauses. None of his characters are particularly likeable, but all for varying reasons. And while there are humorous moments, this is a hard play to watch. It is also, because of the reverse timeline element, a cold, clinical look at the affair. Director Alexandra Harbold has constructed a very sparse, taut production. There was nothing wasted or superfluous. She maneuvered her actors through the many set changes and was able to evoke the proper emotional content going backwards. Unfortunately, the program did not list the set designer. It was a very inventive staging with two three-sided set pieces that served as the walls for the various scenes with the simple addition of a few modest furniture pieces. Scene changes were handled quickly and smoothly with only one slight hiccup in the second act.
Where this production really shines is in the actors. Melanie Nelson was a wonderful Emma. She is a difficult character to be around, but Nelson portrays the emotional content of each of Emma’s scenes extremely well. Jared Larkin is also very engaging as Jerry. Larkin clearly portrays the emotional distance that Jerry seems to have toward everything in his life. He never really seems to connect to anyone or anything in a committed way. Roger Dunbar as Robert has perhaps the most likeable of the three characters, and Dunbar gives Robert the easy-going charm that imbues him with a somewhat tragic tone. He is tied to the other two characters, in spite of the emotional toll it all takes. These are three extremely talented actors in a very emotionally difficult play. Jared Thompson as the waiter did well in an otherwise throwaway role. He was there to break up the tension of the moment and it worked.
In the end, this is a very moving and slightly (to me, at least) disturbing look at three friends and the betrayals that they commit to each other and themselves. I have not been able to stop thinking about the relationships, and the evening has caused no end of mixed emotions in me. I have to say that the play itself left me rather cold, but that is in no way a comment on the performances. They were stunning. I look forward to future productions from this highly dedicated company. Friday’s performance was sparsely attended, and that is a real shame as Pinnacle Acting Company deserves bigger audiences.