The last time Daniel Craig was on Broadway, he starred opposite Hugh Jackman in A Steady Rain. Although Jackman's character was more emotional, Craig's performance was more impressive. Now he’s back and even better in the revival of Harold Pinter’s play, Betrayal at The Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
Playing opposite him as his wife Emma, is his real-life wife Rachel Weisz. Craig plays the cuckolded husband Robert whose wife is having an affair with his best friend, Jerry (Rafe Spall.) The story is told over nine years in reverse order, starting in 1977. When the play begins, Jerry and Emma have already broken up and are meeting in a pub. Emma announces that her marriage is over because Robert has confessed to having affairs, so she’s told him about her own affair with Jerry.
Then the story moves forward to the next meeting between an anxious Jerry and Robert when Jerry learns that Emma had actually confessed to Robert about the affair years before. Flashback two years earlier, and the story continues to unfold. It’s an interesting theatrical approach and sometimes characters mention something that only later makes sense to the audience.
Craig is the obvious reason that this high-priced ticket has sold out most of its limited run. He is strong and forceful, slightly menacing and violent. His character seems quite capable of hitting his wife a few times, as he indicates he has. Even the one love scene is a bit violent; Weisz has tears in her eyes as her husband clutches her fiercely. (Did I mention that Craig looks really good too?)
Making her Broadway debut, the beautiful Weisz is intelligent and spirited. Emma lies to her lover as well as her husband. Why doesn't she tell Jerry that her husband knows about their affair? Instead she suggests that he call him for lunch, as if she wants them to have a confrontation and fight over her. Weisz is a bit aggressive and in her relationship with Jerry seems to be the instigator. She’s the one who ends it when Jerry seems a bit befuddled.
Jerry isn't as strong as the other two. However, this isn’t actor Spall’s fault. The character seems a bit confused and manipulated by the pair. Spall is a bit scruffy and slight, especially in contrast to Craig.
Betrayal is about lies and deceptions, manipulation and, of course, infidelity. Annoyed, Jerry wonders if his wife is seeing someone. The audience wonders if Robert has really been having affairs since Jerry never saw Robert making secret phone calls. Emma’s hurt and anger at her husband is ironic since her own affair lasted years.
As directed by Mike Nichols, Betrayal is not a remarkable interpretation of the Pinter play. However, I doubt that the producers really care. They went with big name celebrities and that has proven quite successful for the box office. The actors are fine, yet ironically, sometimes star power overshadows the play.
The play ends and there are questions that will stay unanswered. But most people didn’t care – they were too busy queuing up at the stage door to get Craig’s autograph.