Harold Pinter's "Betrayal" presents cuckoldry counterclockwise, bringing an illicit affair from bitter end to beginning. Though the play is getting a woeful reading from the folks at the Source Theater, they manage nevertheless to show some craftsmanship and skill.
Director Dorothy Neumann has coaxed few laughs from Pinter's back-stitched yarn of the smart set, wherein a literary agent sins with his publisher-friend's wife, while the publisher dallies elsewhere and the wife has other loves, too -- as all undiscover in a shrinking web of deception. Untold through ever-earlier snippets from the middles of conversations -- "Read any good books lately?" one character actually asks -- the story could have been played as a mordant comedy of manners, but instead has the feel of a rainy afternoon.
The production at the YWCA accentuates the pained silence and the pregnant pause. It's also antiseptic, from the abstractions of Lea Hart's set -- plain white blocks instead of tables, chairs and beds -- to the abstracted looks of the actors. Christopher Wilson, Brian Hemmingsen and Carole Myers make a fairly glum m,enage a trois, with David Foster sparkling briefly as a meddlesome old waiter.
Wilson as the agent Jerry and Myers as Emma are guilty but strangely bloodless lovers -- paralyzed by terminal self-absorption. The pace quickens, though, whenever Hemmingsen takes the stage. As Robert, Emma's betrayed and betraying husband, he mulls and muses enough, but holds in reserve some animal energy. With a wicked gleam in his eye, he manages to lend a line like "When are we going to play some squash?" -- his leitmotif with Jerry -- the quality of taunt, then threat, then cosmic speculation. BETRAYAL -- At the YWCA, 624 Ninth Street NW, through April 24; resumes at the Warehouse Rep on May 5 and continues through May.