This fall’s hot-ticket Broadway show — a revival of Harold Pinter?s 1978 drama Betrayal starring real-life Hollywood couple Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz — is a lot less steamy than you might suspect.
Though sex is central to its love-triangle plot, Betrayal is driven less by hot passion than cool intellect, less trembling lips than stiff upper ones. The nine short scenes unfold in roughly reverse-chronological order, a structural choice that was probably more groundbreaking 35 years ago. And Craig and Weisz exude a certain froideur as married upper-class Brits Robert and Emma even before she begins a four-year affair with Robert?s best friend, Jerry (the sensational Rafe Spall).
Craig, his famously chiseled features half-hidden under a ’70s shag, seems oddly blasé about his wife’s infidelity, while Weisz strikes a lovely if tentative balance between expressive physicality and inward control. Spall has the best handle on his character’s inchoate and conflicted feelings, particularly in his drunken declaration of love at the end of the play (and the beginning of the affair).
Though Betrayal runs less than 90 intermission-less minutes, it can feel longer — thanks in part to Pinter’s notorious pregnant pauses, his elliptical dialogue of misdirection, and the languorous scene changes for Ian MacNeil’s simple but stylish sets.
Director Mike Nichols’ handsome, well-staged production is not your typical crowd-pleaser. Those seeking a more traditional star turn might want to scan the orchestra section before the curtain goes up. (The night I attended, the audience included Javier Bardem, Bette Midler, Glenn Close, and Oprah Winfrey.)
Perhaps because Pinter’s backwards structure forces him to seed each scene with clues to his puzzle-like plot, there’s an off-putting guardedness to the main trio. They regard their emotions from a safe distance, as if with hands safely tucked into pockets. Unable to engage with each other, they may prove a challenge for audiences to embrace as well. B+