The great appeal of Harold Pinter's plays is not what he does with words, but what he makes the audience do with his words. Doling them out in carefully controlled bursts offset by pauses that ebb and flow with tension-building rhythm, Pinter gives you the elements of his story and then demands that you piece them together into a cohesive whole. In Betrayal, Pinter's 1978 examination of a love triangle, the pieces don't fit together snugly — and that's the beautiful and most fascinating aspect of the play. Told in reverse chronological order, we meet Emma and Jerry two years after the end of their affair. The play then regresses to the thick of the affair, and ends at the beginning. We see Robert, Jerry's best friend (or is he?) and Emma's husband, having a strangely unbalanced lunch with Jerry. Robert then has an even more distanced conversation with Emma, the facts discussed here contrary to what we saw in the scene before. We see Emma and Jerry debating the particulars of an earlier gathering, each remembering it in a different way. Three people, each a combination of lover or friend, never see each other — or themselves — clearly, despite the supposed intimacy of their relationships. The Webster Conservatory of Theatre Arts presents Betrayal at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (March 25 through 29) at Stage III in Webster Hall on the Webster University campus (470 East Lockwood Avenue; 314-968-7128). Tickets are $6 to $12.
March 25-29, 2009