"Betrayal" last night
Last Edit: Marlo*Manners 10:52 am EDT 08/20/19
Posted by: Marlo*Manners 10:47 am EDT 08/20/19

I have seen this play twice before on Broadway in 2000 with Liev Schrieber, Juliette Binoche and John Slattery and in 2014 with Rachel Weisz, Daniel Craig and Rafe Spall.

They were all very different. This is a lean, mean stripped down minimalist version that runs a tight 95-100 minutes without intermission.

I have to say that this is a very intelligent production that played very cool and didn't have a lot of emotional payoff. It felt kind of cerebral and detached. I liked Jamie Lloyd's production concept which was quite fluid and unfussy and Soutra Gilmour's effectively simple sets and costumes with a rotating turntable on the stage and helpful text projections with lighting designer Jon Clark. The Mike Nichols production on Broadway kind of broke away from Pinter and played more like Nichols' "Carnal Knowledge" with suggestions of period and much hotter volatile sexual relationships (including a simulated sex scene between Jerry and Emma which was controversial for some being VERY un-Pinteresque - I found it refreshing). In this production I didn't quite get enough heat or pain between these three and I felt a loss of interest and engagement as the story regressed back in time.

The actors are all good. By far, the most charisma and most convincing interpretation comes from Charlie Cox as Jerry who is virile, grounded and specific. He doesn't come off as complicated as the other couple but he felt very real and vital onstage. Zawe Ashton has an alluring presence and low voice and seemed elusive and evasive as Emma. You got the sense that her whole life is just one lie or evasion after another - but I didn't get a grip on a person underneath or if she really loved either her husband or her lover. I was impressed by her subtlety but couldn't care about the character. Rafe Spall and Rachel Weisz suggested real engagement and passion between the illicit couple.

Another thing is that each scene kind of plays on the same emotional level so we don't get a sense of the ups and downs of a real passionate affair played backwards. Also, in the Nichols production there was a sense of time going backwards - the three characters were younger and more exuberant at the end of the play. In fact, in the last scene in Nichols' production there were elaborate costumes with long hair and hippie clothing to show the characters as young hippies in the 1970's. In this one they seemed the same age whereas if you read the script it is obvious that they are close to 40 at the beginning of the play and the end of the story and just approaching thirty when it begins. Cox seemed a little more sedentary and weary in the first scene but Hiddleston and Ashton seemed the same age throughout.

The biggest star, Tom Hiddleston as Robert, is actually in my opinion the weakest link. Tom Hiddleston as Robert has a rather youthful, almost boyish presence (usually Robert is played more mature and even slightly sinister) and seems more of a Jerry type. Daniel Craig is also more of a conventional leading man but his Robert had more gravitas and weight. Hiddleston seems to project a kind of lack of real engagement only showing sparks in the scene on the Italian vacation when he discovers his wife's and best friend's affair. Otherwise there was this flatness about him. Hiddleston was a more lightweight and diffident presence onstage than Cox and his Robert seemed more opaque. Regarding Robert - the text clearly states that Robert and Jerry went to university at the same time and are the same age. Yet most productions cast Robert with an actor who is a generation older than the Jerry. John Slattery in 2000 seemed a generation older than Liev Schreiber and in 1980 I am sure Roy Scheider seemed older than Raul Julia. Hiddleston and Cox seemed the same age which they probably are. This I think is Hiddleston's American stage debut? Correct me if I'm wrong. He wears a tight black shirt and has a nicely toned torso and we get a brief view of his abs for those fangirls out there.

What I did like was that there were touches of humor - especially with Charlie Cox's reactions of outrage and surprise about what Emma and Robert knew for a long time. I was not bored and I was impressed with how well it was put together. I just cared less and less as it went on.

Marlo Manners (Lady Barrington)

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