Reviewed by David A. Rosenberg
Presented by the Roundabout Theatre Co. at the American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St., NYC, Nov. 14-Jan. 28.
That chill wind chasing down 42nd St. and into the American Airlines Theatre is not just a harbinger of winter. Director David Leaveaux's revival of Harold Pinter's beautifully crafted "Betrayal" for the Roundabout Theatre Co. is stark, morbid, and, despite its ostensible subject matter, loveless.
In a series of settings that might do for a mausoleum, three people act out an ironic comedy of despair. Emma is Robert's wife. Jerry is Robert's best friend and Emma's lover. The situation is classic, and Pinter's twist is to unfold it more or less backward, so we know the end before the beginning, and are left to puzzle out not the "what," but the "why" and "how."
The brilliance of the play is that Pinter's characters are equally at sea, their eyes fixed on some distant constellation, even when in the throes of supposed passion (whether of sex or friendship). That sense of disembodiment is emphasized here by actors adept at hiding more than they reveal.
Liev Schreiber, who again appears to be an actor destined for greatness, portrays Jerry as a man possessed by his own yearnings. As Robert, John Slattery stiffens his body and pops his veins in a fearful effort to maintain dignity and balance. Juliette Binoche subtly hints that the enigmatic and resentful Emma is quite aware of the banalities inherent in this doomed ménage a trois. As a zealous waiter, Mark Lotito lends an air of reality.
Under Leveaux's frigid direction, the characters are defeated before they begin, an interpretation of Pinter's icy view of mankind that cuts close to the bone. Rob Howell's overwhelmingly barren set and bleached-out costumes are lit by David Weiner's otherworldly shafts of illumination. One can't help but get the impression these are not palpable people, but mysterious manifestations of some terrible deific joke.