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directed by SAM WEISMAN


IAN MCSHANE as "Robert"
with MICHAEL ALAIMO as "Waiter"

- WINNER, 1982 L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award:
Best Production
Direction (Sam Weisman)
Playwriting (Harold Pinter)
Lead Performance (Penny Fuller & Ian McShane)
Lighting Design (Gerry Hariton & Vicki Baral)
Set Design (Gerry Hariton & Vicki Baral)

Set & Lighting Designed by Gerry Hariton & Vicki Baral
Costumes by Charles Berliner
Music Composed by J.A.C. Redford
Sound Designed by Jon Gottlieb
Managing Director - Harry Orzello


L-R: Lawrence Pressman, Ian McShane & Penny Fuller

L-R: Lawrence Pressman, Penny Fuller & Ian McShane


L.A. TIMES - August 1982

Pinter's Geometry Lesson

By DAN SULLIVAN, Times Theater Critic

A good many critics have tried to fathom what Harold Pinter meant to say, exactly, in a play like "Old Times" or "The Homecoming." A good many productions have tried to make these plays yield more specific answers than they are meant to contain.

Pinter's "Betrayal" in its West Coast premiere at the Matrix Theater—a scrupulous job of production by Actors for Themselves—is not a conundrum. It is as exact as a geometry problem worked out step by step on the blackboard. Given: A man and woman who begin a love affair behind their spouses' backs. To prove: Deception in marriage damages all parties concerned, including the deceived.

If Pinter were to draw his lesson any more clearly, "Betrayal" would be a sermon. There is, in fact, a Lenten feeling to the play. Jerry and Emma, the lovers (Lawrence Pressman and Penny Fuller), are judged as well as analysed—judged and found wanting. So is Robert, the betrayed husband (Ian McShane). None of them behaves well, or acts largely. Adultery, Pinter seems to be saying, is more inhibitive than life-enhancing.

It's also something that friends shouldn't do to one another. We notice that Pinter keeps Jerry's wife off stage. Hasn't she been betrayed as well? Not so much, because she and Emma weren't friends, as Robert and Jerry are.

As we still are, insists Robert, in his suave and nasty way, after it's clear that he knows what's going on. This throws Jerry's superficiality back at him in an unanswerable fashion, but it is not totally false. The men may continue to have lunch, not always a business lunch. (They are in the publishing game in London.) But they won't play squash again. Some lines one doesn't cross.

Comrades being scarcer these days than lovers, this is the betrayal that Pinter seems to take most gravely. But the subversion of Emma's and Robert's marriage is no light matter, though it begins lightly enough, with Jerry being silly at a party. It is adultery on a whim, and like many impulse items it turns out to be overpriced, because the affair wears out, too.

It takes Emma and Jerry longer than some—seven years—to get from "I'm crazy about you" to a hesitant "I don't think ... we don't love each other." But they do arrive there, and the prospects for each look fairly flat at the end of the tale —for Robert as well, who has joined the betrayer's game. Deception seems to have taken the flavor out of their lives—or are they all just getting older?

The end of the story happens to be the beginning of Pinter's play. Interesting, this backward-running line. And not lacking in suspense. A psychiatrist or police investigator probably asks, "What happened just before that?" as often as "What happened afterwards?" Knowing the result, the audience is curious to work back to the cause. Playing the story in reverse also gives the actors the chance to grow lighter and more innocent in their roles, to take off the years rather than to put them on.

There's also a curious poignance in that final scene in the bedroom amid the coats, as if we were looking back in time with Emma, wishing she had broken away from her comical suitor and followed her husband into the living room! In the old phrase, we live our lives forward and examine them backward.

The acting, under the direction of Sam Weisman (Weisman gave us "Table Settings" at the Matrix last year) is very fine, of its specialized kind. "Betrayal" is also as calculated as a math lesson, and that means that we are not going to get spontaneous performances. As deceivers must be, all the characters are under guard.

At first, indeed, Fuller and Pressman seem to be as comically poker-faced as characters in a Noel Coward comedy. (Very large, China.) The pain takes time to surface. Pressman's includes an awareness that he is, indeed, a cad. Fuller's is laced with a delicate resentment of her husband for driving her into this predicament with his coldness—which may partly be true. Certainly she nearly perishes of his coldness in the hotel room in Venice when he finds out about the affair. Yes, I thought it was something like that. Typically underhanded.

McShane as the husband takes the eye because of his new fame in the "Disraeli" TV series, but it is an ensemble performance and the triangle is not thrown out of balance. We see the shutting down that occurs when a suspicious man finds out he was right to be suspicious, but we also get a glimpse, in the luncheon scene, of a man who started out to be open. It's an objective performance, just as it is an objective play, but a faint wash of pity is glimpsed.

The fourth performer is Michael Alaimo as the waiter in the Italian restaurant where Robert and Jerry won't be such familiar faces—fussy, a bit comical, a man with his own story. Not a perfect waiter, but a close to perfect performance.

The set by Gerry Hariton and Vicki Baral (lit by them, too) is a handsome no-comment affair of wheat-colored-modules. Charles Berliner's costumes recede to the 1960s without commenting too much, either. Pinter's sermon is crisp, but it takes.

L.A. WEEKLY Pick of the Week
August 20-26, 1982

by Joie Davidow

This recent play by Harold Pinter is surprisingly light and accessible, yet it misses none of Pinter's linguistic elegance. The very charming, witty story of an adulterous love affair, it raises the question of exactly who is betraying whom. Emma maintains a long-standing romance with her husband's best friend. It takes several years for the thrill to fade, but when it does, they break it off. Two years later, Emma's marriage dissolves. Pinter reveals his story through a series of scenes in reverse chronological order, so that the surprise is in finding out who knew what when. For the real betrayal is in the secrecy. These are upper middle class English people — a literary agent, an art gallery manager — people who vacation in Venice and drink decent wines. And in their struggle to make something discreet and sensible of very real human passions, Pinter finds both humor and poignance.

In this production, the same controlled passion is the key to the superb performances of three actors — Penny Fuller, Lawrence Pressman and Ian McShane — insightfully directed by Sam Weisman. Fuller manages to convey enormous feeling merely by holding a pose, and to subtly grow younger as the play progresses backwards, a year or two at a time. McShane is really quite magnificent as her husband, the power of his unspoken pain nearly terrifying, threatening to explode at any moment. Pressman's character, the best friend, is the least likeable and the most difficult: a flaw, perhaps in Pinter's writing, a problem which neither Pressman nor director Weisman has solved completely. This is a weak, insensitive man, utterly literate, who misses every conversational innuendo. One wonders what Emma sees in him, what sustains the affair for so long, what need he could possibly fulfill in her. Given these difficulties, Pressman's performance is impressive nevertheless.

Gerry Hariton and Vicki Baral have contributed yet another of their stylish, understated sets, solving the problem of multiple scene changes with sliding panels and simple, modular pieces. And somehow, they have managed to duplicate precisely the quality of sunlight flowing through a Venice hotel window.

Unlike much of Pinter's earlier work, Betrayal will not send you home with something to puzzle over and chew on. At. least at my age — which is not so different from that of the protagonists — it left me smiling quietly, perhaps a bit sadly, thinking only, "ah, yes."

FEATURE ARTICLE: L.A. TIMES, Thurs, Oct. 14, 1982


by SYLVIE DRAKE, Times Staff Writer

Two of the more memorable events in Equity Waiver theater this year have been the L.A. Theater Works' production of Steven Berkoff's "Greek" and the Actors for Themselves' production of Harold Pinter's austere "Betrayal."

The two pieces have nothing much more in common beyond the fact that both were written by Englishmen and both inhabited the Matrix Theater. "Betrayal," in fact, continues there through Sunday.

Its success, at one point, tempted producer Joe Stern to move the show to an Equity house. One that would have been right for it—the former Solari Theater in Beverly Hills—was made available by its new owner, Gucci's. It meant raising $100,000 for the move. According to Stern, he had it half raised by the beginning of last week.

But "Betrayal" isn't moving. And the reason may be a first in the annals of Equity Waiver. The actors—Penny Fuller, Ian McShane and Lawrence Pressman—voted against it.


"It was a threefold thing," Pressman said, speaking for all three. "The Matrix stands for a special kind of event and that event has already taken place. We like to bring people into this theater. We brought people into this theater.'

"Secondly, it's a question of intimacy. Pinter has referred to his plays as 'a conversation overheard.' The Matrix is right for that. We felt the Solari might not be.

"Thirdly, we would have been forced to play an eight-performance schedule as opposed to five a week. It was something we preferred not to do. We like the greater flexibility, in case one of us gets a movie or television job. You can do the film work in the daytime and play the theater at night, but it's a killer. Yes, we could have understudies go on, but as much as possible —and this is not a slur at understudies, not at all—we want to preserve the fine chemical balance in the show."

As it stands, understudy Bob Phelan will go on this weekend for actor McShane who will be in New York shooting a movie. And the Friday performance has been canceled altogether because Penny Fuller is also working, but a 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinee has been added to make up for the cancellation.

Beyond Sunday, "Betrayal" doesn't close exactly. It goes on hiatus until Dec. 8 (possibly longer) to give McShane a chance to finish that film and until Pressman returns from a previously scheduled trip to Russia. (By the way, CBS-TV's "Two on the Town" is featuring this "Betrayal" in one of its segments next week.)

Meanwhile—and here's excellent news—"Greek," with its original cast intact, returns to the Matrix for the interim period. It will have the benefit of polishing touches from author/director Berkoff who's in town directing his "Metamorphosis," which premieres next Thursday at the Mark Taper. "Greek" will open Oct. 23, playing matinees and evenings that first weekend, then slips into a regular schedule, Tuesday-Sunday, 8 p.m., until Dec. 5.

"I'm still planning to take 'Greek' to New York," producer Susan Loewenberg said, "but it won't be until the spring. This gives us the opportunity, in a manner of speaking, of extending the local run."

You won't hear complaints from us.




Perhaps it's not only love that's better the second time abound. At least that's how it strikes Ian McShane, whose presence is very much in evidence these days. His television series, "Disraeli: Portrait of a Romantic," is .now airing again at 9 p.m. on Sundays on PBS' "Masterpiece Theater," and he has just opened in "Betrayal" at the Matrix Theater.

"Disraeli" was first seen two years ago and earned fine reviews. McShane, understandably, got the lion's share of them. The critics all praised the "dark brooding intensity" that he brought to the role.

Very nice. But at that time Mc-Shane's leg was encased in plaster from an injury he sustained while making a movie in Egypt, and there was an actor's strike on. And so, although the series won plaudits everywhere, nothing much happened as far as its star was concerned.

This time it's been different. Thanks to some judicious advertising, the series again has been widely watched and McShane has caught everyone's attention.

McShane, whose dark good looks have reminded some of Tyrone Power, finds it all highly gratifying.

"Nothing much did happen when the series was first shown here," he said, relaxing in his apartment just off the Sunset Strip. "But this time there seems to have been great word of mouth. And it's fortunate that it's come out just when I'm doing 'Betrayal' on stage."

Like the other actors in this Harold Pinter play, McShane is working for no fee.

"And that's fine with me," he said. "It's a great chance to do a fine play. Anyway, I didn't become an actor just to try to make a lot of money, I did it because I wanted to act. And the chance to do high quality work always seems to go hand in hand with the lower end of the pay scale."

McShane, who built up a good reputation in his native England, returns there often to do plays and movies.  Earlier thisyear he starred in "The Big Knife" on the English stage.

He was also in Paris this year making James Toback's film "Exposed," in which he will be seen with Nastassia Kinski, Rudolf Nureyev and Harvey Keitel.

In it, McShane plays an English photographer who discovers Kinski and turns her into an international cover girl. Toback changed the character into an Englishman in order to use McShane, whom he admires, but McShane would have been quite happy to play the role as an American. His accent is faultless.

"It's an interesting film," ha said, "an odd mixture of high fashion and terrorism. Harvey Keitel plays a character based on Carlos the terrorist, and the film has a really gruesome finale.

"Nastassia is terrific in it. Curiously enough I made a film with her father, Klaus Kinski, nearly 20 years ago ("Pleasure Girls") in which I also played a photographer.

"This one, I think, should do well. I hope so. It would be nice to have a big commercial success. It makes life easier."

Now married to American actress Gwen Humble, and with two children by a former marriage living this side of the Atlantic, McShane expects to spend more and more time in the United States.

"In the past, I've tended to live all over the place," he said. "And that confuses producers. Now I need people to know I am here."

He is, understandably, delighted that the series on Disraeli has been so well received this time around and that audiences are enjoying his work in "Betrayal."

"But I must say I'm getting a little tired of being rediscovered." he said with a smile. "After all, I've been an actor all my life (he is 39). I keep running into actors here who say: 'I went the usual route; I was a waiter, Or: 'I was a barman.' Me, I was never a waiter or a barman. I was always an actor. Do you think I missed anything?"

Production Staff:

Stage Manager - Kim O'Bannon
Assistant to the Director - Carol Henry
Technical Director - Richard Hart
Master Electrician - Jim Barbaley
Sound Design - Jon Gittlieb
Assistant Costume Designer - Mary Gleason
Scenic Artist - Mary Angelyn Brown
Assistant Stage Manager - John Webber
Production Assistant - Herb Johnson

Electricians: Kurt Glowienke, Gordon Huff, Gus Mendoza, Richard Portillo
Carpenters: Ray Acosta, Mary Angelyn Brown, Gordon Huff, Gus Mendoza

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