BETRAYAL by Pinter at Irish Classical presents infidelity in a very measured, proper, British fashion 

THE BASICS:  BETRAYAL, the 1978 play by Harold Pinter, directed by Greg Natale, starring Anthony Alcocer, Steve Copps, Aleks Malejs, and John Profeta. 2/23 – 3/17, Thu – Fri 7:30, Sat 3:00, Sun 2:00 at Irish Classical Theatre, 625 Main Street, Buffalo. 716-853-4282  

Visit the website to see special performances, talk backs, etc  including Pay-What-You-Can Performances on Saturdays March 2,9, and16 (all at 7:30); a pre-show speaker event with Intimacy Director, Jessica Hillman-McCord on Sunday, March 3, at 1:30, a Community Matinee: Wednesday, March 13, at 10:00 am, and an Open Captioned Performance Thursday, March 14, at 7:30 pm.

Runtime: 90 minutes, no intermission

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  Slowly, in rather casual conversations, often in restaurants at tables for two, we find that for four years Jerry (Anthony Alcocer) has/had been having an affair with Emma (Aleks Malejs) who is married to Robert (Steve Copps).  The play unfolds in reverse order, over seven years, quite sensational for the time (1978) ending, more or less, with Jerry and Emma’s first kiss. 

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION:  Pinter characters are often awful people, nasty, mean, and deceitful.  In this play, they are only deceitful.  Pinter characters often hide their emotions, and that’s true here, and only occasionally do we see either Jerry or Emma a little nervous about their affair being discovered by Robert.  So they are aware that their affair is not entirely a good thing, and that it might hurt Robert, but Emma continues to be Roberts’s wife and Jerry continues to be his best friend, although they don’t play squash anymore.  (In Pinter plays, a little thing like that can be very telling.)

L-R: Steve Copps, Aleks Malejs, Anthony Alcocer

All the characters present as somewhat bored upper-class Brits who never raise their voices so it’s a bit difficult to access their inner conflicts.  But are they intrinsically “bad” people?  Director Greg Natale describes them simply as “not innocent.”  His Director’s Statement reads in part: “There are no innocents in BETRAYAL.  Pinter locks Robert and Emma, husband and wife, and Emma’s lover Jerry, her husband’s oldest and best friend, into a love triangle that leaves no one unscathed. The betrayals are more than just those between husband and wife, and best friends, they are non-stop and multilevel occurring not only between characters, but also within one’s self, to one’s own belief systems and integrity, even to unseen spouses, clients, and children.”

Unseen spouses, clients, and children are afterthoughts, and certainly the effect on those people is considered unimportant.  These people are, as are so many Pinter characters, selfish.

Alcocer, Copps, and Malejs are all in good form in this play.  Often Alcocer plays very dynamic, physical, “bad boy” characters so when he keeps it all inside in the role of Jerry, it adds great dramatic tension as we wonder when and how that feral nature will reveal itself.  It does, but only in the final moments.  And I would advise you to take any opportunity to see Aleks Malejs on stage.  She can be girlish one second and churlish the next and something else the next.  She is well paired with Alcocer as Emma and Jerry are both cool as cucumbers outside and hot as tamales inside.  Steve Copps soldiers on in this play, although his character Robert gets in his little verbal jabs (this is, remember, a Pinter play). 

Kudos to scenic designer Spencer Dick for a spare stage with minimal and efficient scene changes, to Jayson Clark for lighting in a way that makes the stage seem bigger than it is as it has to be a variety of locations (7 in all over 9 scenes), Vivian Del Bello for costumes that seem “timeless,” sound designer Tom Makar for providing good atmosphere, and dialect and speech coach Megan Callahan.

*HERD OF   (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

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