Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
In this Lantern Theater Company production, Gregory Isaac is devilishly suave as handsome and quietly menacing husband Robert. Isaac wrings multiple shades of meaning from every repeated line and drawn out pause (Pinter is famous for his pauses), effectively invoking a strange sense of smoldering passion between himself and his unfaithful wife Emma, played with quiet confidence by Geneviève Perrier. In fact, my favorite scene in the production is a gut-wrenching exchange between Robert and Emma in a Venice hotel.
Jered McLenigan is adorably goofy as Robert's best friend and Emma's secret lover, but there is no passion between McLenigan and Perrier or (perhaps even more importantly) between McLenigan and Isaac. This lack of chemistry is not an issue during the first half of the show (which is, of course, the end of the affair) where the stress and strain of the ongoing relationships have long since taken their toll. The problem is that director Kathryn MacMillan cannot foster any spark of joy in the scenes depicting the characters' early relationships. The result is a second act that feels sad and plodding where it should be bittersweet and intense.
LeVonne Lindsay's costume designs are top notch, perfectly reflecting her characters' sense of style and the changing trends of late 1960s and early 1970s fashion. Meghan Jones's scenic designs are impressively efficient, creating several distinct settings without any of the laborious set changes that might slow the production's pace. There is a lot of stark white that evokes a cold clinical feeling I am not sure is right for a play as personal as Betrayal.
Frequently funny, consistently engaging, and marvelously enigmatic, Betrayal will pull at the edges of your mind long after the house lights have come up. Isaac's passionate stoicism is a thing of beauty and reason enough to see this production before it closes. There is more to be desired from some of the relationships on stage, but even that sense of disappointment somehow is appropriate in Pinter's masterpiece.
Betrayal, through February 17, 2019, at the Lantern Theater Company's St. Stephen's Theater, 10th & Ludlow Streets, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, visit www.lanterntheater.org or call 215-829-0395.
Playwright: Harold Pinter