Monday, April 23, 2018
Features and More

At American Stage, 'Betrayal' keeps faith with its muse

ST. PETERSBURG — Harold Pinter gets men right, or at least he gets Englishmen right. Betrayal is Pinter's comedy of manners about Robert, a publisher, and the affair between his wife, Emma, a gallery owner, and Jerry, an author's agent who was best man at their wedding.

Jerry's betrayal of Robert went on for years, but the publisher, who himself has had affairs, couldn't be more blase about it. Instead, it's Jerry who feels betrayed that his oldest friend knew about the affair and didn't tell him when he knew.

"Why didn't you tell me?'' Jerry demands of Robert. "That you knew. You bastard.''

Pinter's play on love and sex and relationships in upper-middle-class London is full of evasive small talk. The first affectionate physical touch is not between Emma and either Robert or Jerry, but occurs in scene four between the two men, a comradely cuff by Robert on Jerry's shoulder over an invitation to play squash.

Drew DeCaro is Robert and Kevin Bergen is Jerry in the American Stage production that opened this past weekend, and there's an uneasy edge to their male bonding that rings true. DeCaro gives the publisher a brute aggressiveness, toying with Bergen's wormy agent. Robert seems complicit in the affair between his wife and friend in a creepy sort of way, while Jerry comes across as naive. Still, for all the underlying anxiety between Robert and Jerry, their bookish shop talk over a boozy lunch at an Italian restaurant is hilarious.

Pinter is less persuasive in his treatment of Emma, the rather obscure object of desire in Betrayal. Julie Rowe gives a magnificently nuanced portrayal of a smart, sophisticated woman as victim in a velvet-lined rut. Emma shows some spunk when she bitterly ends the affair by flinging at Jerry the keys to their flat for afternoon assignations, but mostly she appears overwhelmed by a profound loss.

The story unfolds backward in nine concise scenes, though several go forward in time. Pinter's ingenious structure reflects his preoccupation with the past and the impossibility of remembering it honestly.

The American Stage players, directed by Todd Olson, do not attempt English accents, though there is the hint of one in Rowe's clipped sense of reserve and the occasional plummy outburst by DeCaro. The Pinteresque pauses and silences are fluently incorporated into the dialogue.

A problematic change was to set the action in the present, rather than the play's 1968-1977, when relations between men and women were not yet totally upended by the sexual revolution and feminism. Some 30 years later, the chilly, dispassionate style of Betrayal seems a bit dated, even for England.

Englishness is very much the point of Betrayal, which is somewhat reminiscent of D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love (the movie especially, with its famous nude wrestling scene by Alan Bates and Oliver Reed) for its suggestions of homoerotic attraction between Robert and Jerry. In some ways, the play can be seen as Pinter's Camelot, with the cuckolded King Arthur, his straying Queen Guinevere and her lover Lancelot transplanted to modern London.

Designer Scott Cooper outdid himself in his elaborate set for Betrayal, which is suffused in Joseph P. Oshry's melancholy blue lighting and Philip Glass' repetitive, unsettling music.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

Comments
Review: American Stage hits ‘The Producers’ out of the park

Review: American Stage hits ‘The Producers’ out of the park

ST. PETERSBURG — Without question, Mel Brooks’ The Producers carved a more indelible mark than most of the musicals in the entire genre of throwaway musicals it parodied.The creator of Get Smart and Blazing Saddles not only co-wrote the adaptation of...
Updated: 11 hours ago
It’s a boy! Kate Middleton gives birth to third royal baby

It’s a boy! Kate Middleton gives birth to third royal baby

LONDON — For Kate, the wait is over. The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth Monday to a healthy baby boy — a third child for Kate and Prince William and fifth in line to the British throne.The couple’s Kensington Palace office announced news of the birt...
Published: 04/23/18
Taste test: vanilla wafers

Taste test: vanilla wafers

When it comes to cookies, our judges are all in. When it comes to vanilla wafers, most of them admitted to reaching for the familiar Nilla Wafers in the bright yellow box. Surprisingly, they liked the well-known brand least of the seven wafers sample...
Published: 04/23/18
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18
In Bhutan, gross national happiness more important than GDP

In Bhutan, gross national happiness more important than GDP

Associated PressLAYA, BhutanPrayer flags whip in the wind, flying across steep valleys and roads. Buddhist temples, stupa shrines and majestic fortresses called zhongs dot the landscape. Giant water-powered prayer wheels spin from tumbling falls. Far...
Published: 04/20/18
The Holocaust connection that makes the Florida Orchestra’s Verdi ‘Requiem’ concert special

The Holocaust connection that makes the Florida Orchestra’s Verdi ‘Requiem’ concert special

The Florida Orchestra puts another exclamation point on its 50th season with Verdi’s Requiem, this weekend’s concert series, a major presentation of an iconic work. Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, Requiem debuted in 1874 but took on a new layer of signif...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
On its 20th anniversary, Disney's Animal Kingdom credits conservation with longevity

On its 20th anniversary, Disney's Animal Kingdom credits conservation with longevity

ORLANDO — When Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened 20 years ago, it was light on thrills and heavy on conservation. On April 22, 1998, Earth Day, the Orlando park had a single thrill ride, Countdown to Extinction, and a handful of shows like ...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
On 4/20, a Tampa distillery is releasing hemp-infused Touch Vodka

On 4/20, a Tampa distillery is releasing hemp-infused Touch Vodka

TAMPA — Appropriately enough, a local distillery is releasing a hemp vodka on Friday, 4/20.After more than a year of planning and research, Fat Dog Spirits — the parent company of Touch Vodka — is releasing its new Nirvana vodka.Served in 750-millile...
Published: 04/19/18
Graze all day at Armature Works

Graze all day at Armature Works

TAMPA HEIGHTS— Graze 1910 upholds the comfortable and relaxing, yet elegant setting of Armature Works with its "comfort food" offerings and dedication to serving breakfast all day."It’s the way I eat. I graze all day," said owner Raymond "Ray" Menend...
Published: 04/19/18
Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

SPRING HILL Joe Lemieux sat on the cream sofa near several relics from another era in his life, out of place in this retiree’s pastel-tinged living room and brought into the morning light specifically for this occasion. There was a beaded nec...
Published: 04/19/18