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BETRAYAL, Red Wolf Theatre Company, at Center Theater. There may be better plays about the subjects of friendship, marriage, and infidelity--Othello comes to mind--but few are as masterfully constructed as Harold Pinter's drama about two old friends, Jerry and Robert, and Robert's wife, Emma. Moving swiftly back in time to demonstrate the inevitability of the tragic affair that develops between Jerry and Emma, the play deftly and economically explores the characters' multiple deceptions and betrayals.

This is one of those plays where every single line and pause is packed with nuance, drama, irony, and humor. Ben Kingsley, Patricia Hodge, and Jeremy Irons pretty much made these roles their own in the 1983 film version, so much so that anyone performing the play now may feel he's playing Sam Spade after Humphrey Bogart or James Bond after Sean Connery.

In Red Wolf's pristine production, directed by Peter Toran, Susan Block as Emma does the best job of capturing the script's complexities, using her expressive face to register the pain of things unsaid during Pinter's silences. Less effective are David Tatosian, who accurately embodies Jerry's sardonic weariness at the end of the affair but is less convincing during the desperately romantic early embraces, and Mark Marziale as Robert, fighting a losing battle with his English accent instead of delving beneath the surface of his character to find the more complex levels of anguish and comedy beneath Pinter's seemingly straightforward dialogue.

--Adam Langer

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