Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Betrayal (Broadway)


Emma (Zawe Ashton) and Jerry (Charlie Cox) are a married couple, but not to each other. Despite the fact, they carry on having an affair for seven years and believe that their respective spouses have absolutely no idea regarding their infidelity. Robert (Tom Hiddleston), Emma’s husband and Jerry’s best friend, actually knows for quite some time now, but is aloof because he himself has been having an affair of his own. When Jerry finds out that Robert knows, the two meet up and a discussion between friends begins, putting into detail what used to be mere suspicions and doubts. As the three continue to live a normal life despite their cheating tendencies, they discover what really makes their relationship with one another tick, but will friendship suffice to justify cheating and betrayal?

If Sea Wall/A Life was full of monologues, then Betrayal is full of dialogues. Again, one of those talker straight plays. The set couldn’t have been more minimalistic. You have two chairs, four bottles of beer, and a wide canvas wall as the background. Only two actors can sit at the same time, so the other one is forced to move to the background and “admire” the wall art most of the time. Given the style, this is a relatively easy play to stage if you have dependable actors who can capture an audience with their mere presence.

In that regard, then Hiddleston is probably the big Hollywood draw. While it is quite unfair to say that people are just watching the play because a big Marvel star is playing one of the roles, it seems to be the case. And then you have Cox, who is also Marvel royalty, but in the small screen. Ashton is the unknown star to many yet refuses to fade into the background because her character somehow serves as the glue that holds the three together, and her performance is nowhere near the vicinity of disappointing.

The subject matter is simple, though. As the title suggests, it’s a tale of betrayal, of secret lovers engaged in extra-marital affairs. All they do is talk about their infidelity, how it unfolded, how long were they able to maintain it. The twists are not that shocking and has more to do with who really knows what and who knows who really knows what. In a way, it’s like a game of verbal cat and mouse. In terms of plot development, there really isn’t any, because the crux of the material is in its conversations.

Or maybe it was just my jetlag? I was already half-asleep by the time the second half came along. There is no intermission, by the way. The play runs for 90 minutes straight sans break. What I admire about the material, though, is its subtlety, which might not be that effective depending on your mood while watching. Perhaps I was just looking for something more intense and cliché. I would have appreciated this play better any other day. I don’t regret seeing it, though. At least now I know that these Hollywood actors can really act.

Perhaps the narrative could have benefited if there were more intense scenes, except that most are anti-climactic at best. Somehow it feels like we have already reached the climax prior to the start of the play, and what we are seeing now onstage is just the denouement. So, you might be asking, why see this then? Well, its actors are not just popular, but they give justice to their roles and manage to pull off a fragile balance between humor and heartache. Maybe it’s safe to say that this is not about the fact of the betrayal, but rather the clarification thereof, eventually segueing to the next chapter which is moving on.

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