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William Zielinski (Robert) and Brenda Withers (Emma). Photo: Michael & Suz Karchmer

Review by Rebecca M. Alvin

If you are hoping for an intensely emotional theatrical experience, Betrayal is not the show for you. The 1978 Harold Pinter play about an extramarital affair between a man and his best friend’s wife is the definition of restraint. The decision for the American actors in this coproduction of Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT) and the Harbor Stage Company to perform with British accents only serves to further the disconnection we feel to these characters, leaving us with a cold response to them. But that’s the point, right?

 Emma (Brenda Withers) is married to Robert (William Zielinski), who is best friends with Jerry (Jonathan Fielding), a man married to Judith, who never appears in the play. The story begins at the end, with Jerry and Emma meeting well after their relationship has ended and, in fact, so too has Emma’s relationship with Robert. But the affair seems hardly the point. The marriage has disintegrated for unremarkable reasons, and yet it is the jumping off point for a play that moves around in time and reconstructs these dead relationships, forcing us to search for key moments, reasons for the relationship problems that have existed over time, the emotional content that might help us see how the three characters define and in fact feel “love.” But ultimately, Pinter doesn’t satisfy that quest. Instead, we are frustrated at every turn by the characters’ lack of emotional resonance with one another, theire constant deceptions, and as the title suggests, betrayals.

Betrayal is a frustrating play. While the performances, under Robert Kropf’s direction, are suitably repressed and awkward for the characters being portrayed, the result is a show that is ultimately not enjoyable. We neither condemn the lovers for their betrayals nor sympathize with Robert, who, as it turns out, also has had affairs. The lovers lie to each other over and over again, sometimes under the guise of actually coming out with the truth as when Emma tells Jerry she’s just told Robert about the affair and then we later learn she’d already told him about it years ago.

Based on Pinter’s real-life affair with Joan Bakewell, Betrayal is surprisingly lacking in authentic emotion. But the strength of the play lies in its exploration of ambiguities. The marriages and affairs that come together and fall apart are less emotional than intellectual examinations. Withers, Fielding, and Zielinski hold back any warmth or charm in this very British play, which is an effective strategy for Pinter’s intentions. But for an audience, these characters are hard to connect with and their relationships with each other all seem false and dated, leaving you to wonder why you spent the past 70 minutes or so with them and feel as empty as they do.

Betrayal is performed Tuesdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. through October 14 at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater Julie Harris Stage, 2357 Rte. 6, Wellfleet. For tickets ($40 with discounts for seniors/students $15 / Pay what you can Wednesday) and information call 508.349.9428 or visit

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Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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