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Betrayal seems like a no-brainer for a fledgling company's first stab at success

Wednesday, Nov 28 2001
Crafty English playwright Harold Pinter is having something of a renaissance in the U.S. these days, what with last summer's Pinter Festival at Lincoln Center and ACT's 2001 season opener of Celebration and The Room. In keeping with this trend, Coelacanth Theatricals presents Pinter's impeccably scripted Betrayal for its inaugural production. With a cast of four and minimal set changes, Betrayal seems like a no-brainer for a fledgling company's first stab at success. But in reality this two-act drama is a feat to pull off. Starting in the present and traveling back over the span of eight years, it chronicles an extramarital love affair between a woman and her husband's best friend from end to start, intricately unweaving a tangled web of deceit. A script like this -- so tight one might call it shrink-wrapped -- relies heavily on delivery. Coelacanth, eagerly, rises to the occasion. Despite having never acted together previously, the cast (directed by Hester Schell) is instinctively connected through Pinter's indicting and revelatory dialogue. Colin Hussey, Kathryn Wood, and Hugh Grant doppelgänger Nick Sholley deliver Pinter's pauses with a fierce intensity -- important in a play that is about 40 pages on paper yet nearly two hours in production. Schell uses the ambience of the intimate Phoenix II to her full advantage: The minimalist black stage and set contrast with an adulterous shade of red that appears in different forms, from a searing ribbon to an implicating lipstick. Despite some uneven English accents, Betrayal is surprisingly seamless. If this show is any indication of Coelacanth's talents, Bay Area theatergoers have another new company to look out for.

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Karen Macklin


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