Friday, July 18, 2008

Play of the Week: Betrayal

by Harold Pinter

In one of the most beautiful and starkly devastating plays, Pinter takes us through the affairs of a husband, a wife, and her lover. The story is told in reverse chronological orders allowing us the audience to see things going wrong far before the characters will ever suspect. As so often is the case in a Pinter play, what isn't said is carries so much more weight than what is said.

The play is a pursuit of happiness and how much you are willing to give up for its instant gratification. As each character finds they don't know the other as well as they should, their worlds slowly crumble. No one is ever completely destroyed, but it goes to show just how devastating a single misstep can become.

Just as the silence is important so are some of the props in the play. A tablecloth symbolizes the hope that can turn a flat into a home. Taking a key to that flat off the keyring means the ending of a relationship. A letter, both found and un-found, is the basis of the affair. And the drinks so often consumed through the play, are the children of the people in the play. So much is layered into this script that its 90-minute run time covers the emotional berth of a 3 hour play.

It is also not just a play for people who've lived long enough to understand this kind of loss. It could be seen through the eyes of a child who is watching his parents break up. It could be seen through the eyes of a young bride who is realizing that she may not have married the man she loves most. It could be seen through the eyes of a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

This play is a must for any theatre artist. It takes a mature actor with a strong sense of themselves to play these parts. It is something we both wish for and pray will never happen to us. It is a drama of the most human form.

Happy Birthday: Clifford Odets (1906-1963)

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