Letters to the Editor
When I read that Lakeside Little Theater (LLT) was going to put on Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, I thought it might be a bridge too far. This play is difficult even for professional actors under seasoned directors; witness the 2013 Mike Nichols production on Broadway, starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall, which was roundly panned by the critics. It was not so much the acting but the way the director put it all together. Since 1978 it has been produced many times with “names,” and all over the world, often to great approval, but sometimes not.
It is about betrayal on many levels; between lovers, between friends, and their families. It should have an undercurrent of sadism, emotional brutality and confused memories. It needs actors who are masters of their craft to pull it off. The 1983 film starring Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley and Patricia Hodge managed this in the easier movie setting. So why on earth did the LLT think they should try it?
One answer is that they found a couple of English people about the right age who were willing to try it: Richard Varney as “Jerry” and Jacinta Stringer as “Emma.” But try as they undoubtedly did, these parts were a few grades above their skill levels. The result being that the audience was left wondering how such a terrible play could ever have been so successful.
Pinter is famous for his pauses between dialogue, but when these actors did the pauses, the audience was left wondering, not about what must be going through the characters’ minds, but rather, did they forget their lines. And therein is the rub. The biggest hardship for most amateur actors is learning the lines. This often overwhelms the ability to truly inhabit the part. A further problem for amateurs is a love scene with someone they are not particularly attracted to.
The final scene (which in this complicated play that runs backwards is actually the beginning of the affair) is embarrassingly false. There is no passion between Varney and Stringer. Ms. Stringer has an attractive face but she always seems to be trying to hide her body beneath bulky and unattractive clothes. This is made even more difficult for her by having her wearing flat shoes, perhaps because of a height difference with Varney.
Dave McIntosh as Emma’s cuckolded husband “Robert” is obviously a more experienced actor and manages to present a more believable character, but alas he is 20+ years older than Stringer and Varney and it works against the believability of the overall production.
Advice to LLT – stick to lighter stuff!
Name Withheld By Request
(Ed. Note: Ordinarily, the Ojo does not publish unsigned letters, but this one, written by either a seasoned playgoer or perhaps even a theater professional, was temperate enough in tone for us to make an exception. Besides, it will undoubtedly elicit a lively response from our creative community—and that is always a good thing.)