Throughout the 85 minutes of Soulpepper's stark new production of Harold Pinter's Betrayal, I heard maybe one cough, max, from the audience. Perhaps cold and flu season is over. More likely, people were quietly rapt by this careful reading of the most exciting of human temptations, adultery.
Pinter's 1978 three-hander is best known for its reverse chronological telling of the seven-year adulterous affair between Emma (Susan Coyne), who's married to Robert (Diego Matamoros), and Jerry (Albert Schultz), Robert's best friend.
Emotional game It's an emotional and intellectual chess game, with the players -- and us -- anticipating moves, trying to see who's bluffing, lying and betraying.
Pinter can be arch and precious, but director Daniel Brooks infuses the play with mystery, so that a child's bicycle, a souvenir tablecloth or a second glass of wine takes on emotional resonance.
Andrea Lundy's lighting subtly evokes time, place and mood, while Richard Feren's sound design echoes the structural device by gradually deconstructing an elegant baroque number until it's a juvenile plunking-out of a few notes.
Dispensing wisely with Brit accents -- there's little in the script, besides superficial place names, to warrant them -- the actors make the most of the rich material, Coyne striking as the vain, bored woman caught between two men and possibly looking for yet another.
Best, though, is Matamoros, who takes the most sympathetic character -- the cuckolded husband -- and makes him just as capable of violence and betrayal with his counterattacks and strategies. GS
BETRAYAL, by Harold Pinter, directed by Daniel Brooks, with Diego Matamoros, Susan Coyne and Albert Schultz. Presented by Soulpepper at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay West). Runs to September 30, various evenings 8 pm, some matinees 2 pm. $24-$46. 973-4000. Rating: NNNN