Since then, the actor-turned-playwright-turned-director, now 61, has gone in different directions - writing one-act plays ("Mountain Language" in 1988) and screenplays ("The French Lieutenant's Woman" and, more recently, "The Handmaid's Tale").
With its small cast and spartan settings, "Betrayal" is perfectly suited to the Monson's intimate theater-in-the-round space. And L.L. West is just as perfectly suited to direct this piece.The tiny, square stage, surrounded by about 150 seats, looks like a game board. As the lights come up, the four main characters file out, one at a time, and stand quietly in the four corners, silently facing each other, joined in the middle by a fifth player - the Waiter (who also functions as a narrator).
The stage is the gameboard - and the game three of these people are playing is one of deception and delusion.
Those familiar with Pinter's highly charged drama may be wondering about the number of players. The original script has only four - literary agent Jerry; publisher Robert; Robert's wife,
STAGE Emma, and the waiter. West has injected an "Emma No. 2" into the piece. It didn't take long to figure out that she is Emma's conscience. Both Emmas recite key phrases of dialogue in unison.
From the time it premiered, "Betrayal" has been somewhat controversial. Pinter took a very different approach to probing a subtly erotic triangle - starting at the end, then moving backward in time across nine years to when Jerry and Emma's adulterous affair began. Pinter's script shifts from 1977 to 1968. West reset the time from 1991 to 1982, but the play has lost none of its dramatic impact.
The student actors playing the three central characters - Brad Schroeder, Leslie Warwood and Jodi Longstroth as Jerry, Robert and Emma - were uniformly excellent. We've caught these three in a variety of WSU productions, mostly musicals and comedies, but an intimate drama like "Betrayal" really puts their talent on the line. Holly Fowers and Joe Payne also fare well in the lesser roles of Emma No. 2 and the Waiter.
Bonnita Ungvarsky's simple, flexible scenery and Brian R. Jones' low-key lighting add to the starkness of the drama. By shifing some chairs, a table, and a bed around - the setting moves from a London pub to Jerry's house to a Wessex Grove flat (where Jerry and Emma have carried on their clandestine affair over the years) to a hotel room in Venice and to rooms in Robert and Emma's house. The lighting is intentionally dark.
Four patrons walked out of the show on opening night, one couple right after the first scene, and another a little later. Maybe it was because it was over their heads (Pinter does not write frothy Neil Simonesque comedies), or maybe it was the strong language. There is some vulgarity in the script, but it's rather mild and is integral to the dialogue in the play.
After 13 years, "Betrayal" is still a potent drama. It's not everybody's cup of British tea, but in an area where the majority of theater seems to be nothing more than insipid fluff, it's particularly exciting to see a well-crafted, hard-edged production.