Seattle Repertory Theatre
February 19 – March 22, 2009
Harold Pinter’s Betrayal comes very vividly to life at the Seattle Repertory Theatre this Spring. Directed by Braden Abraham (My Name is Rachel Corrie and many others) this 1978 play later made into a film premiering in 1983 follows the story of adultery backwards from the conclusion back to the onset. Following Emma (Cheyenne Casebier), her husband Robert (Alex Podulke) and her lover, Jerry (David Christopher Wells), the audience journeys with them back up the downward spiral of their intertwined lives.
Alex Podulke and Cheyenne Casebier. Photo by Chris Benion.
Harold Pinter is responsible for some of the most recognizable and influential work in the theatre and, later in his life, in politics. Born in 1930 in Hackney, England, Pinter worked his way from the humble start as the son of a Jewish tailor to a man winning an “-esque” in the Oxford English Dictionary (“Pinteresque: of or relating to Harold Pinter; resembling or characteristic of his plays. Pinter’s plays are typically characterized by implications of threat and strong feeling produced through colloquial language, apparent triviality, and long pauses.” – from the
His work, Betrayal, is quintessential of his style. Long pauses, colloquial language and seemingly trivial throughout, the play is packed with the subtext of the everyday life of an adulterer. Abraham’s directing expertly executes “Pinteresque.” Allowing the text to do the work and molding the action onstage around it to fit Pinter’s vision and style, Abraham brings the work to life without interfering, but rather gently fostering the brutal reality of the story.
Cheyenne Casebier (playing Emma) transforms magnificently as she reverse-ages throughout the performance. The costumes (Francis Kenny) follow with pinpoint precision as the play travels from 1977 back into the late 1960s. Casebier makes the transformation every step of the way with mirroring precision and grace. Alex Podulke (Robert) embodies everything his character is from his moustache to his sweaters, from his obsession with the game of Squash to his never empty glass, Podulke masters the stage. Similarly, David Christopher Wells (Jerry) morphs from the jaded man at the conclusion of the story (the beginning of the performance) to the wide-eyed and adventurous man of the onset of their story. Meanwhile, in one pointed and gut-wrenching scene, a mysterious Italian waiter (John Farrage) conquers the unexplored territory of innocence in the cruel world that Pinter has laid out for the audience.
One must also take note of the incredibly sparse (Pinteresque, if you will) set and its utilitarian mastery. Etta Lilienthal’s design and sense of practicality is almost unnoticeable until the gentle shifts have occurred. It takes at least the entire scene following any change to notice that it has, indeed changed. Conversely, the furniture movement is not hidden; no magical strings are pulled and the stage never fully departs from the audience until the story is told.
All-in-all, Seattle Rep’s production of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal makes for a fantastic night of theater. While definitely not a family show, nor a light one, Betrayal takes real human nature and sends it home with everyone who sees it.
Review by Nigel Andrews