October 04, 2006


So once in a while I like to read a play. I read this one - Betrayal, by Harold Pinter, because our local theatre is putting on readings of the play this month, and I thought it would be nice to get a little more culturally involved around here. So I read it, enjoyed it, and next week I'll go see them read it. Plus, Harold Pinter received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005. In its award, the Swedish Academy called Pinter "the foremost representative of British drama in the second half of the 20th century." That seemed like a pretty good recommendation.

“Everything’s over,” the characters say in the opening scene of the play. Which, in a way, is true. The beginning of Pinter’s heart-wrenching play is set in his characters’ present day, and each scene leads us back into time, further into the origins of the doomed love triangle made up of the play’s three characters: gallery owner Emma, her husband Robert, and his best friend (and Emma’s lover) Jerry. Chronological quirks aside, Betrayal is about the multiple deceptions of the three, and the various ways they betray each other.

Emma: Have you ever been unfaithful?
Jerry: To whom?
Emma: To me.
Jerry: No.

What is betrayal? What does it mean to be betrayed? Happily, Pinter declines to moralize on the matter, and instead leaves us with the knotty situation as a fragment of social truth, which we are left to resolve for ourselves. Betrayal is, perhaps, in the eye of the beholder.

The language in the play is really interesting - the dialogue builds upon itself, so that comments that seem casual at first grow in meaning until readers/viewers grasp the hidden significance of the characters’ words.

So... did anyone see that Seinfeld where they did a parody/homage to this play? The scenes went back in time, and there was a character named Pinter. Oh, such cleverness. At least now I feel like I'm in on the joke. (Because it's really important to be in on Seinfeld jokes from 10 years ago. I know.)

1 comment:

Liz said...

So happy to see you are back blogging!! And glad that I too can now claim to 'get' that Seinfeld on a deeper level. Pinter and the wedding in India, right? With the bra-less woman? HA!