KPBS AIRDATE: February 22, 2002
Pinter…. The pauses. …. The famous pauses…. The silence… that speaks volumes. You gotta love ’em…. and you gotta get ’em right. In the Globe’s intimate Cassius Carter, we’re hemmed in like Harold Pinter’s characters, as we watch the unraveling of a tightly woven love triangle involving a husband, his wife, and his best friend — in the aptly entitled “Betrayal.”
Next door to all those pauses, at the Globe, we’ve got the voluble Irish. Well, they’re supposed to be Irish. In this version of Marie Jones’ acclaimed comedy, “Stones in His Pockets,” the two Irishmen who poke fun at Americans’ feeble attempts at Irish accents are ironically played by Americans — Bronson Pinchot and Christopher Burns. And in still further irony, this national tour originated in London.
“Stones” is really just a trifle, about a rural Irish town overrun by a Hollywood film crew (or “filim,” as they would have it). The locals, hired on as extras, take center stage and all the other characters — the townsfolk and the arrogant Yanks — are background. All are deftly played by the amusingly chameleon-like actors. Both are engaging, but Pinchot is especially entertaining in his multiple roles. This production, like the original, was directed by Ian McElhinney, who does everything to make the flimsy plot come to vibrant life. It’s a great actors’ showcase, but not a very trenchant evening of theater, despite its pretense at deep thoughts about the world’s self-destructive fantasies of movie stardom and Hollywood glamour. It doesn’t require much thinking or inspire much post-performance thought.
But next door, Pinter’s intense, well-wrought 1978 drama is making considerable demands on its audience. In “Betrayal,” time moves backwards. Nine scenes and various setting map out the devolution of a seven-year affair; we see how everything fell apart before we learn how it all came together. We voyeurs have to patch together the full story, and decide for ourselves if any of these characters is worthy of our admiration, pity or sympathy. Those pregnant, Pinteresque pauses should carry as much, if not more meaning than the brilliantly spare text. Unfortunately, director Karen Carpenter’s silences are overly long and protracted, without sufficient dramatic tension to fill the gaps. In her stylized attempt to make the movement as stark as the text, Carpenter has hamstrung her actors. So Daniel Freedom Stewart comes off a touch smarmy as the friend, Christopher Randolph is too mannered as the husband and Pamela Gray is less than charismatic as the woman in between. No gripes about the ingenious design, though; Robin Sanford Roberts’ box is a puzzle that, like the play itself, deconstructs and reassembles, and Aaron Copp’s lights arc across the set like the sun, tracing the passage of time. Compared to the comic froth of “Stones,” “Betrayal” is bleak and unnerving. But, despite a flawed production, we know we’re watching a lasting and significant piece of theater.
©2002 Patté Productions Inc