Review: Betrayal at Fells Point Corner Theatre

TheatreBloom rating:
TheatreBloom rating:

An affair. A secret. A confession. A twist. Master classic playwright Harold Pinter holds the original drama in his words but they find an edgy and revitalized life in the new production now appearing on the Sokal Stage of the Fells Point Corner Theatre. Directed by Andrew J. Porter, this vivid incarnation of Betrayal is moved by a timeless verve that resonates the emotional simplicity and poignancy of Pinter’s story. Focused, sharp, and exceptionally well crafted, this current production of the classic drama will bring you to the edge of your seat with intrigue over just how the dynamics of these relationships really work.

Gareth Kelly (left) as Robert, Ryan Gunning (center) as Emma, and Thom Eric Sinn (right) as Jerry in Betrayal at Fells Point Corner TheatreTessa Sollway Blische
Gareth Kelly (left) as Robert, Ryan Gunning (center) as Emma, and Thom Eric Sinn (right) as Jerry in Betrayal at Fells Point Corner Theatre

Wearing a plethora of hats, Director Andrew J. Porter brilliantly articulates his overall vision for the play by tying in crucial design elements to create a cutting aesthetic that allows the story to flourish. Using upright flats that shift and slide easily to create multiple spaces upon the intimate and quaint stage, Porter constructs a fluid series of scenes that are both simple and poignant. Employing the use of a monochromatic color scheme on the main scenic pieces Porter finds a timeless verve to the setting of the story, giving it a hint of modernity while letting it rest easily in the not too-distant past. This color scheme is echoed in Costume Designer Anne Shoemaker’s couture and gives the actors a clean-cut look that speaks of a moment frozen in time.

Serving as the show’s Sound Designer, Porter captures the emotional essence of the play’s scenes in his transitional music. In addition to using the music to cover the scene changes, which move with a surprising energy to keep the show rolling along smoothly, these haunting snippets of violin and piano feel as if they come from a time that simultaneously screams Pinter and modern day. Echoing the sentiment of each scene’s end as the music begins, Porter carries the emotional intent of the characters and their stories through the scene changes with his sound choices and into the next moment of the show.

The tension created between the characters is immediately recognizable and so strong that it is often palpable. Porter succeeds in crafting these striking moments into existence with perfectly executed pauses in the dialogue exchange. His keen understanding of dramatic tension and build is infused into the textual delivery of Pinter’s words and his thorough and intimate knowledge of the scenarios in play is well reflected in the dynamic that is built between the characters’ relationships. Understanding how to capture tension and suspicion and agonizing confession through silence is a critical component to making the work speak for itself and Porter does that with rigorous aplomb.

Thom Eric Sinn (left) as Jerry, Gareth Kelly (center) as Robert, and Ryan Gunning (right) as Emma in Betrayal at Fells Point Corner TheatreTessa Sollway Blische
Thom Eric Sinn (left) as Jerry, Gareth Kelly (center) as Robert, and Ryan Gunning (right) as Emma in Betrayal at Fells Point Corner Theatre

Taking but a moment in the limelight, Tony Colavito appears for a cameo role that tickles the funny bone for the brief scene in which he encountered. Porter encourages a flirtation with the stock-type caricature character and Colavito delivers with a polished Italian accent, grandiose gestures, and impeccably awkward timing. Guided to play the moment straight and in earnest, Colavito finds the balance between comic relief, of this otherwise tension driven scene and, and iconic plot device.

The trio of performers that carry the show on their shoulder deliver exceptional work throughout the course of the evening. The characters are richly developed and strikingly realistic particularly when dealing with confessions. Gareth Kelly, playing Robert commands a presence upon the stage as the upstart husband of Emma (Ryan Gunning) and best friend of Jerry (Thom Eric Sinn.) Kelly possesses a masterful approach to delivering subtext in his lengthy scene with Gunning, interrogating her with innocuous words which he’s layered and laced with perceptively inexplicable anger and distrust. Allowing his voice to do the animated telling of his emotions, Kelly delves into this and every scene with an underlying fire raging in his gut always kept just off the surface until he’s ready to erupt into an inferno of sensations and feelings.

Gunning is equally masterful in her stage presence and command thereof and displays a remarkable control of her emotional stakes. In a particularly poignant and biting discourse exchanged with Sinn’s character after an intimate and unseen moment shared by the two, Gunning eviscerates the remains of their once happy existence together with a piercing look and a handful of perfectly delivered words. The power to do so with such simple deployment of speech and glances is the epitome of solid acting. Shifting through the emotions that a true lover’s affair can contain in reverse is no small feat, one that Gunning rises to the occasion for with great resplendence.

Thom Eric Sinn (left) as Jerry and Gareth Kelly (right) as Robert in Betrayal at Fells Point Corner TheatreTessa Sollway Blische
Thom Eric Sinn (left) as Jerry and Gareth Kelly (right) as Robert in Betrayal at Fells Point Corner Theatre

Sinn, as Jerry, rounds out the trio of acting titans set upon the stage in this production. With an astonishing grip on his own character convictions and a vividly animated sense of presence whilst engaging with both Gunning and Kelly, Sinn masterfully executes his character’s predicaments in each and every scene. Perhaps the most impressive thing among the lineup of well-accomplished moments on stage is his performance as a drunk whilst confessing his true feelings. Not pandering to the stereotype of ‘drunk acting’, Sinn embraces the moment truthfully and makes it one of the most intriguing to happen upon the stage.

Three masterful performing talents taking to the words of Pinter as if they were living and breathing the stories to their own purpose with an exceptional director at the helm makes for one phenomenal production now playing for a limited engagement at the Fells Point Corner Theatre.   

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission

Betrayal plays through November 8, 2015 on the Sokal Stage at the Fells Point Corner Theatre— 251 S. Ann Street in historic Fells Point of Baltimore, MD. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance online.

To read the interview with Director Andrew Porter, click here.


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