About once a month I organize a Broadway outing for my co-workers at Dropbox. I get us group tickets, which you can learn all about in my book, Buying Broadway. This month we saw Betrayal. I generally pick shows I think people in the office will want to see. With its all star cast, I knew this was it.
Betrayal follows the affair of Emma (Zawe Ashton) and Jerry (Charlie Cox). Emma is married to Jerry’s close friend, Robert (Tom Hiddleston). The story is told in reverse. It begins with Emma explaining to Jerry that Robert is aware of their affair, and then shows scenes in reverse from their breakup to their initial attraction.
I hadn’t seen a Harold Pinter play before this, but I should see more. His writing is incredible. Mr. Pinter’s career spanned over 50 years and his original production of Betrayal (1978) is just one of his many successful works. You wouldn’t know this was a 40 year old play just by watching it though, everything about it feels modern and relevant.
We’re constantly witnessing callbacks to things that have been mentioned earlier in the play. Except it’s in reverse. So one-off lines like “remember the time” unfold as entire scenes as the show goes on.
The staging was minimalist, but effective. There was nothing more than a small table and a couple of chairs. The costumes matched as well. They were dark blues, blacks, and grays. This left the audience with nothing to watch but the actors.
And there was so much to absorb just by looking at the actors. In most scenes, only two of the characters were present while the third was onstage but not in the room. The show opened with Jerry and Emma discussing their history, with Robert talking slow steps across the back of the stage. These movements were so methodical that we’re constantly turning our attention to the character who isn’t supposed to be present.
They successfully pulled off this dynamic with each combination of actors. While Robert (Hiddleston) was methodical in his movements, Jerry (Cox) seems uneasy, and Emma (Ashton) is graceful.
There’s a constant tension onstage, sexual or otherwise.You feel like at any point the show is going to break out into a fight or a sex scene. In fact there’s a bit of both.
I’d be remise not to mention how quickly I forgot that I was looking at two Marvel superstars. This play is so powerful, and well acted that it’s easy to suspend disbelief with very familiar faces. When I sent the announcement email to Dropboxer’s I included the following in the FAQ.
Am I going to see Loki and Daredevil?
You will see the actors who play Loki and Daredevil.
So it's a Marvel movie?
This is neither Marvel nor a movie.
In retrospect it’s comical that I came for the Marvel stars; because it’s independently a marvelous show.
Overall though, this was a really impressive piece of theater. Great writing, staging, and of course acting. Definitely give it a watch if you're in town.