Friday, November 8, 2013

Betrayal and A Court Room Drama

I remember having to read Pinter in theater classes and if truth be told, not enjoying the read. However seeing the revival of Betrayal on Broadway gave me a different appreciation for his work. That's right: I'm not going to say the same things that every review has said. The financially successful production hasn't been as well-received from critics as it is from theater-goers willing to pay big bucks to see Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall. With Mike Nichols at the helm, this production handles the triangle relationship of a married couple and his best friend in a much different way - adding subtext not found in the play and basically changing the tone of what people believe to be Pinter. 

I've read that Pinter based this play on an affair he had, but that he was unaware the woman's husband knew of the affair. Told in a backwards tale, Betrayal starts in 1977 when Emma (Weisz) tells Jerry (Spall) she and her husband are divorcing and goes back to 1968 when the affair between the two first began. I found the chemistry between the two actors very believable. And I was taken in by the stuttering, disjointed performance of Spall and the sheer beauty of Weisz. Daniel Craig has the smallest of the roles, but his presence is very well felt as everything he does booms up to the mezzanine. The sets were beautiful to watch constantly change and the mood music was haunting. I can see where reviewers felt a letdown (if they have seen other productions of the show) because you never believed for a moment they were pulling a fast one in their deception. No one was truly betrayed because the actors wore it all on their faces - constantly. Plus there were moments where the audience laughed, making me feel as if I was watching a British comedy and I knew that wasn't what they were trying to convey on the stage at the Barrymore Theatre. 

It did spark conversations afterwards though with my fellow theater-goers about affairs, permission granted by spouses and why people would stay in a marriage for so long while continuing something on the outside - especially with someone so close to the couple. All questions that are best left for therapy and now I think I'll need to go back and watch the 1983 film adaptation of this play. 

Two nights later, I attended A Time to Kill - the adapted stage work by Rupert Holmes of the John Grisham novel. The day before I went, it was announced the show will close on November 17 and I must admit I am disappointed that is happening. I was thoroughly enthralled by the courtroom drama - even though I had already seen the 1996 movie based on the same novel. A moving set keeps locales changing and the use of projections are used to fill that 'dead air time' continuously keeping audiences engaged in the action. A story of a small southern town, reactions to a rape, a murder, and how racism plays so heavily in decisions people make are still ringing true in 2013 as much as they were when the novel was written in 1989. It was obvious the audience when I attended was deeply engrossed in the story, even speaking back to the stage at times.

We (the audience) were the jury - and so close to the great performances being displayed by TV favorites such as Tom Skerritt, Fred Dalton Thompson, and Ashley Williams along side some of Broadway's best with Sebastian Arcelus, Patrick Page, John Douglas Thompson, and Tonya Pinkins. All of the performances were wonderful, but it is Patrick Page that stood out mostly for me. Playing the prosecutor, Page creates an evil foe to Arcelus's young DA Jack Brigance without ever going overboard into stereotype. I was completely pulled in by his slimy ways complete with constant lint picking from his suit, fixing his pocket handkerchief and ability to get red-faced in an instant as well as that amazing bass voice. 

It is hard to condense this huge novel down and still keep characterization intact. When the play is concentrating on the trial, it is at it's best. I applaud director Ethan McSweeny and the creative team for taking a chance on an adaptation that would be so closely compared to the film. And for those that were able to catch the play in its short life on Broadway, we were offered a great night of drama.

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