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Pinter's Power Trio

Dave Lepori

Triangulation: Mark Booher (left) and Julian Lopez-Morillas vie for the love of Livia Genise in Harold Pinter's "Betrayal."

San Jose Stage Company burrows into Harold Pinter's 'Betrayal'

By Anne Gelhaus

With only three characters and the most basic of plots, Harold Pinter's Betrayal still weaves a most tangled web of lies and deceit, and San Jose Stage Company has managed to define clearly many of the slender threads that tie its trio together.

Pinter's script travels backward in time to dissect crucial moments in the affair of Emma (Livia Genise) and Jerry (Mark Booher), who literally set up housekeeping behind the back of Robert (Julian Lopez-Morillas), Emma's husband and Jerry's best friend.

The action commences two years after the end of the affair and closes with its genesis; along the way, the actors probe successfully for the deeper meaning behind Pinter's infamously minimalistic dialogue.

None of their characters is particularly likable, but each is compelling enough to produce some sympathy for their overall situation. Genise and Booher make it clear that Emma and Jerry are seeking attention from each other that they don't get from their spouses.

She is more suited to keeping house in the flat where she and Jerry spend their afternoons than she is to the social responsibilities of being book-publisher Robert's wife. Jerry's unseen wife, Judith, works the night shift as a hospital nurse, and his schedule is such that their paths rarely cross.

The situation, however, isn't nearly that simple. In their scenes together, Genise and Lopez-Morillas rely mostly on body language to convey their characters' love for each other even in the midst of the affair. In the play's most powerful scene, when Emma tells Robert she and Jerry are lovers, Genise is kneeling on the bed, hugging herself and visibly trembling.

The affair continues for two years after this admission, and Booher plays Jerry as willfully, maddeningly ignorant of the fact that his secret is out.

Granted, neither Emma or Robert tell him this directly--both are aware that his guilt would drive him to end his respective relationships with them--but they both drop hints so broad that Jerry looks like a clueless fool for not picking up on them. In the end--or as it's written, in the beginning--Booher's Jerry comes off as both the villain and the fool of the piece.

The backdrop for Betrayal is a lot more refined than all the messy machinations that take place within the play. Set designer Rob Hamilton frames each scene with a black-and-white slide that not only sets the mood but is captioned to let the audience know how much further back in time they've traveled. Some of the set changes are long and involved, but sound designer Aodh Og O Tuama fills the gaps with incidental music that's a lot more soothing than the action that precedes and follows it.

Betrayal, a San Jose Stage Company Production, plays Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through May 12 at The Stage, 490 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $15-$25. (408/283-7142)

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From the April 25-May 1, 1996 issue of Metro

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