December 11, 2013
Traición: a superb version of a classic
Paola Krum, Daniel Hendler and Diego Velázquez form a perfect trio
Ciro Zorzoli’s current version of Traición (Betrayal), a classic play written in 1978 by Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, is an ideal option if you’re interested in the theatre scene of Buenos Aires. It’s a dynamic, fresh and thought-provoking drama set in the 70s, but easily shiftable to any time and age.
Based on the author’s personal extramarital relationship with BBC presenter Joan Bakewell — who was appointed Commander of the most excellent British Empire in 1999, — Betrayal is the story of two friends who fall in love with the same woman.
Contrary to the traditional story development, the play begins with the end, in 1977. The first scene shows Emma (Paola Krum) and Jerry (Daniel Hendler), her former lover and best friend of her husband Robert (Diego Velázquez), two year afters the couple’s break-up. So, from the start, the audience knows that the characters have stooped to adultery for seven years and that Robert is aware of it. The play goes back in time, revealing the characters’s journey to this point and the changes they’ve undergone on the way.
However, Betrayal is not reduced to mere infidelity. It’s about three people who cheat on each other in different ways. All of them hide something and ignore other facts. Pinter’s works mostly have sparse dialogues, characters who hide emotions and have veiled motivations. For example, Robert has known about the relationship between his wife and his friend for the last four years, because Emma had confessed it to him, but none of them finds it necessary to tell Jerry the truth until the end (or beginning) of the play.
The drama benefits from superb staging. Zorzoli — who recently directed the local version of The Maids — effectively makes the most of every single resource available on stage to put on a dynamic 70-minute show. The set design and costumes by Oria Puppo and the lighting by Eli Sirlin play key roles in the play’s beautiful texture. On stage, there are just some mobile bookshelves in the back, a sofa and a few chairs which are then moved from one place to another by the characters themselves and two assistants to mark the end of a scene and the beginning of the next one. All the movements, accompanied by good lights, are precisely and timely coordinated to keep the pace of the performance. Instead of a curtain, there is a big screen where timeline information is screened. This helps the audience to follow the reverse chronology.
Books and literature are always present because the male characters work in the book industry. Robert is a publisher and Jerry is a book agent, while Emma owns an art gallery and is an enthusiast reader. Alcohol is another element which repeatedly appears in the text and on stage.
Velázquez, the less mainstream actor of the three — though a great performer — stands out from the cast. He plays Robert, the spiteful friend, the unfaithful and violent husband, the heavy drinker.
With subtle gestures, eye-expression and splendid use of irony, he conveys veiled anger. In fact, the character never actually stoops to openly insulting or hitting Jerry; instead, he brings his feelings forward by “not calling him any longer to play squash.”
Krum — who has starred in successful soap operas like Montecristo and El Elegido and musicals like My Fair Lady and Drácula — shows her good acting skills playing the only woman of the trio. She conveys all her feelings through excellent use of body language and manages to brings a sense of cheerfulness on stage.
Hendler’s performance is peculiar. This Uruguayan actor who lives in Argentina is best-known for shining on the big screen. His movie credits include Esperando al mesías, Derecho de familia and El abrazo partido — for which he was honoured with the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2004 — and has starred in the 2012 television success series Graduados, but he hasn’t done much theatre in Argentina. He takes some time to get under the skin of Jerry — in the first scenes he almost looks like Graduados’ Andy Goddzer dressed in formal clothes. His tone is monotonous, but, as the story unfolds, he finds the way to pull it off. All in all, Zorzoli’s mise en scène is effective from start to end. Or the other way round.
When and where:
Teatro Picadero (Pasaje Enrique Santos Discépolo 1857). Wed, Sat & Sun 10.15pm and Tue & Sun 8pm. Tickets from 120 pesos.