Acclaimed British director Maria Aitken
(Private Lives and Alfred Hitchcock
’s The 39 Steps at the Huntington) returns to the Huntington Theatre Company
to helm Nobel Prize Laureate Harold Pinter
’s most accessible play, the Olivier Award-winning classic BETRAYAL. Aitken brings a unique relationship with the material, as she was herself directed by Pinter as a young actress.
BETRAYAL is a searing drama that explores the complexities of human emotions, including love, guilt, and duplicity as it tells the story of a passionate, seven-year love affair between Emma and her husband Robert’s best friend, Jerry. The play presents the couple’s affair through a series of fragmented memories. The action begins in a pub in the spring of 1977 after Emma and Jerry’s affair has ended, and then moves backward in time to reveal how the relationship flourished and eventually began. The storytelling technique – innovative in its day and frequently imitated – illuminates the ways in which the couple betrayed not only their spouses and each other, but also themselves through faulty memory and false perception.
“Harold Pinter has been on the short list of playwrights I’ve wanted to include in a season since I arrived at the Huntington,” says Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois. “Director Maria Aitken will bring sharp honesty to the play’s simple, spare beauty and a singular perspective as an interpreter of his writing.”
BETRAYAL is considered to be one of the most human plays by Pinter, as well as one of Pinter’s most personal. It is in fact a very close recounting of his seven-year relationship with Joan Bakewell, wife of director Michael Bakewell. The play debuted in London with Penelope Wilton, Michael Gambon, and Daniel Massey in 1978; Pinter’s film adaptation starring Patricia Hodge, Jeremy Irons, and Ben Kingsley was released in 1983.
The cast includes: Alan Cox (Jerry): The Caretaker at BAM, the national tour of Frost/Nixon, and Translations on Broadway; Mark H. Dold (Robert): Absurd Person Singular on Broadway and Freud’s Last Session Off Broadway; Gretchen Egolf (Emma): Ring Round the Moon and Jackie on Broadway, A Streetcar Named Desire (Guthrie Theater); and Luis Negrón (Waiter): The Miracle Worker at Wheelock Family Theatre, Zeta! Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater.
Harold Pinter (playwright) was a Nobel Prize-winning English playwright, screenwriter, director, and actor. One of the most influential modern British dramatists, his writing career spanned more than 50 years. His career as a playwright began with a production of The Room in 1957. His second play, The Birthday Party, closed after eight performances, but was enthusiastically reviewed by critic Harold Hobson. His early works were described by critics as “comedy of menace.” Later plays such as NO MAN'S LAND (1975) and BETRAYAL (1978) became known as “memory plays.” He appeared as an actor in productions of his own work on radio and film. He also undertook a number of roles in works by other writers. He directed nearly 50 productions for stage and screen, and received over 50 awards, prizes, and other honors, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005 and the French Légion d’honneur in 2007.
Despite frail health after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer in December 2001, Pinter continued to act on stage and screen, last performing the title role of Samuel Beckett’s one-act monologue Krapp’s Last Tape in October 2006 for the 50th anniversary season of The Royal Court Theatre. He died from liver cancer on December 24, 2008.