The Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Harold Pinter's Betrayal, which opened last night at the American Airlines Theatre, is explained in the background materials offered as being about "the high price of passion, which is examined when a love affair destroys a marriage and sabotages a friendship. Robert and Jerry were best friends. Robert and Emma were married. Jerry and Emma were lovers; welcome to the tangled emotional world of betrayal."
Well, yes. But that makes this play sound a lot more interesting and potentially engaging than it actually is.
Pinter's plays seem much beloved by actors, who apparently find in them unlimited opportunities to indulge themselves in the subtle nuance, the portentous, lengthy pause fraught with meaning, and the internalized, intellectually challenging joy of frequently cryptic dialogue which functions on several levels all at once. This is all well and good, if you like that sort of thing, but it does tend to encourage an evening at the theatre that's more a private party game with the rules known only to the participants than one might hope for. Still, if you're the type who delights at working out for yourself what's actually happening, or not happening as it were, on the stage, this production of Betrayal is for you.
Juliette Binoche, an Academy Award winner for "The English Patient," who here plays Emma, Liev Schreiber seen here as Jerry, and John Slattery as the husband Robert, all appear to be enjoying themselves immensely. Unfortunately, preoccupied as they are with all those internalized emotions, the essential unpleasantness of their characters is clear and, lacking any appealing features other than their unquestioned good looks, we are left observing them at a distance and not really invested in any of the anguish one assumes is the whole point of the play.
David Leveaux, the director, seems to be recycling what he did in last season's Tom Stoppard hit The Real Thing. Rob Howell's sets and costumes are elegant, as is the lighting design of David Weiner. Donald DiNicola's sound design is notable for its unobtrusiveness.
Betrayal by Harold Pinter. Directed by David Leveaux. Cast: Juliette Binoche, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery. Set and costume design by Rob Howell. Lighting design by David Weiner. Sound design by Donald DiNicola.
Theatre: American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd Street
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday 8 PM, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 2 PM Limited Run through January 1, 2001
Ticket prices: $40 - $65
Tickets online: Individual tickets are not available online. Subscriptions to the Roundabout Theater Company for the 2000-01 Season may be purchased online at roundabouttheatre.org or by calling (212) 719-1300
Tickets by phone: Roundabout Ticket Services at (212) 719-1300
Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 2 PM