Trio of actors touch nerves in `Betrayal'

Drama: Pinter's brilliant dialogue - with his signature restraint and submerged pain - is fully exploited at Bay Theatre.

Review

Arundel Live

February 24, 2005|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Bay Theatre's intimate, 90-seat space in Annapolis provides an ideal home for playwright Harold Pinter, and the match only begins there.

The strong, three-person cast of Betrayal conveys this human drama with all the painful, raw edges of this love triangle involving a long-term affair between a woman and her husband's best friend.

Each actor is so skilled and their concentration so profound that audience members are drawn into their lives so completely that it seems like they are eavesdropping.

Betrayal tells its story in reverse, starting at the end of the affair and finishing with the first kiss.

Along the way, the affair is reconstructed with a few surprises from protagonists. Pinter's brilliant dialogue - with his signature restraint and submerged pain - is fully exploited, coming through in trademark pauses that take on the significance of art's negative space.

Director Karl Kippola does an excellent job of allowing Pinter's dialogue to propel the action seamlessly at a fast pace, all within a set of two small tables on either side of the stage and a bed at rear center.

The set works well to create nine scenes, so the dialogue remains edgy, and always maintains needed restraint.

The Bay folks pay meticulous attention to detail that goes beyond the set and extends to musical selections such as "Your Cheatin' Heart" before the play begins and Irving Berlin's poignant 1924 tune "What'll I do?" after intermission.

Such details confirm Bay's professionalism.

Janet Luby, Bay's co-founder, plays Emma, perhaps the play's least sympathetic character.

Luby conveys Emma's full gamut of emotions with restraint - a neat trick. She reveals her character's willful blindness, her initial reluctance (then eagerness) to be drawn into an affair, her manipulative edge and her immense vulnerability - all insinuated in every pregnant pause.

James Gallagher plays husband Robert, who initially seems the most sympathetic but is gradually revealed to have a dark side that includes once having hit his wife.

Gallagher reveals his character's complexity from his initial hurt at discovering the affair to his ability to open old marital wounds and toy with his former best friend, Jerry.

Jim Chance plays Jerry, who perhaps is most capable of genuine affection for both his old friend and Emma. Chance conveys his character's abundant charm and likeability along with his capacity for self-deception and the angst of modern life that prevents his building a more complete relationship.

The three maintain convincing British accents throughout the play's 90 minutes to complete their portrayals.

Bay Theatre's production of Betrayal may be its best yet in a series of excellent theater offered by this three-year-old company.

The play continues Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 26 at 275 West St. Reservations: 410-268-1333.

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