Capital Stage delivers an intriguing new production that clenches us in the sensual grip of an adulterous love affair. Harold Pinter’s simple-seeming “Betrayal” systematically reveals an intricate web of deceit that forcefully clutches each of the play’s three central characters.
Exploring the progress of a seven-year affair told in reverse chronological order, “Betrayal” reveals Pinter in his prime. Banal surfaces of a familiar story unfold into nuanced verbal rallies of revelations, regrets and lost love. The singular title unfurls like an umbrella covering the multiple betrayals that occur throughout the nine tautly constructed scenes.
The plays opens in London 1977. Former lovers Jerry and Emma meet in a pub after she has unexpectedly called him. They stopped seeing each other two years previously, but she has news for him. She and her husband, Robert, Jerry’s longtime friend, are divorcing. The details Emma gives of the reasons for divorce and her admission that she told her husband of their affair shock him. After a scene that chronologically follows the first one, we move systematically back in time to 1975, then to 1974 and finally to 1968 when Robert first declares his love to Emma.
As Jerry, the expert Chad Deverman creates a devastating portrait of a man in a barely controlled freefall. Though Jerry is clever and sophisticated – he works as a literary agent – Deverman artlessly strips away the English white-collar reticence and places the depth of Jerry’s feelings in full view. Similarly, the exquisite performances by Elena Wright as Emma and Michael Patrick Wiles as Robert open us to the depths of emotions and feelings their characters are experiencing even though the foreground conversations skim across what could be only tangentially related subjects.
Although each character finds himself or herself betrayed by another, Pinter hints that the greatest betrayal is of self. There is also a sense of the ephemeral nature of pure happiness in our lives, the moments we know had meaning but exist now only in our memories. Director Janis Stevens elegantly frames the melancholy poetry of Pinter’s drama with Paul Kreutz’s spare scenic design and Gail Russell’s striking costume design.
If Deverman’s Jerry suffers the most in the evolving series of wounding revelations, Wright’s Emma emerges most resilient and Wiles’ Robert most pragmatic. They are all profoundly affected, though, and that makes the production so appealing.
What: Harold Pinter’s 1978 drama with Chad Deverman, Elena Wright, Michael Patrick Wiles and Graham Scott Green. Directed by Janis Stevens.
Where: Capital Stage, 2215 J St., Sacramento
When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays through Feb. 26.
Information: (916) 995-5464; capstage.org
Time: 75 minutes; no intermission.