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Regional Reviews by Nancy Grossman

Harold Pinter's Betrayal
Another Country Productions

A Separate Peace
Robert Kropf and Lyralen Kaye
Harold Pinter was a distinguished and influential British playwright who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. His 1978 play Betrayal is a microcosm of stereotypical stiff upper lip English personalities, rife with emotional restraint, verbal sparring and dissembling. What sets it apart is Pinter's use of reverse chronology in telling the story of two marriages and a long friendship rent asunder by an affair. In the first scene (1977), we meet Emma and Jerry two years after the end of their seven-year relationship when her marriage is dissolving, and follow them back in time through nine scenes to 1968 when it all began.

Layered atop the unusual structure of Pinter's play is Another Country Productions' acting method, the Meisner Technique. Developed by Sanford Meisner after working with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler at the Group Theatre in New York, the technique emphasizes improvisation, spontaneity between the actors, and being in the moment. The key is having the actors respond honestly to each other, drawing the audience into the relationships between the characters. Being seated in close proximity to the stage in the rehearsal hall at the Calderwood Pavilion heightens the emotional impact, and one almost feels like a voyeur observing the trio and the tangled web they weave.

A.C.P. Artistic Director Lyralen Kaye, who teaches Meisner in Boston, brings a richness of emotions to her portrayal of Emma. As Robert's wife and Jerry's lover, Emma must divide her life and affections, becoming an expert at compartmentalizing and, for all intents and purposes, betraying both men as well as her own desires. Jerry (Robert Kropf) is Robert's best friend and husband to Judith, whom we never meet. Kropf shows Jerry's struggle with his ambivalence and his guilt on his face and in the slump of his shoulders. Wayne Fritsche displays the stiffest upper lip as Robert, but gradually reveals that there is a human with feelings and secrets of his own underneath the façade. His controlled, displaced rage in a restaurant scene with Jerry and an impatient waiter (James Wilcox) is masterful.

Director Gail Phaneuf elicits strong performances from her cast and adds some nice touches to the staging, including effective blocking, and inserts Steven Lee as a non-speaking Security Guard to shine a light on the year at the beginning of each scene. Dahlia Al-Habieli's scenic design is attractive with clean lines, white cube-shaped structures that serve as furnishings and colorful works of art on the walls, tying in with the fact that Emma runs a gallery. In addition to Lee and Wilcox rearranging the set pieces between scenes, Greg Jutkiewicz's lighting and Phaneuf's sound design help to distinguish the locales, from Emma and Jerry's flat, to a hotel room in Venice, to a New Year's party at Robert and Emma's house. Costumes by Karen Maloney reflect the different sides of Emma—the country girl, the professional woman, the party hostess—while Jerry and Robert dress primarily in corduroy or hound's-tooth respectively.

Betrayal relies heavily on nuance and "what is not said is as important as what is," according to Kaye. What makes this production work so well is the ability of this cast, trained in the Meisner technique, to convey as much, if not more, in their silences as they do when speaking their lines. Sitting only fifteen or twenty feet away, the audience can feel the heat or the chill emanating from the scene, as if sharing a glass of wine with Emma and Jerry or being a fly on the wall in the Venice hotel room. Reality TV pales in comparison. This is real life, too close for comfort.

Presented by Another Country Productions & The Factory Theatre at The Boston Center for the Arts Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont Street, Boston. Performances through June 5th. Tickets: 617-933-8600 or www.BostonTheatreScene.com

Directed by Gail Phaneuf, Scenic Designer Dahlia L'Habieli, Costume Designer Karen Maloney, Sound Designer Gail Phaneuf, Lighting Designer Greg Jutkiewicz, Stage Manager Alexander LaFrance

Cast (in order of appearance): Lyralen Kaye (Emma), Robert Kropf (Jerry), Wayne Fritsche (Robert), James Wilcox (Waiter), Steven Lee (Security Guard)



- Nancy Grossman



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