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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

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Amy Hansmann smolders onstage in Soulstice Theatre's "Betrayal."
Amy Hansmann smolders onstage in Soulstice Theatre's "Betrayal."

"Betrayal" is a pleasant surprise

One of the coolest things in life is to go somewhere and be surprised by what you find.

That’s what happened at opening night at Soulstice Theatre’s production of "Betrayal" Friday night.

This little shoestring company which has delivered unevenly in past seasons delivered an astoundingly and surprisingly powerful version of one of the great plays of the 20th century.

"Betrayal" was written by Harold Pinter, one of the angry young men of the world of theater, and it is a towering drama based on his own extra-marital affair. It is a scathing indictment of the lies we all tell, to those we love and to ourselves and demands subtlety and nuance to come alive on stage.

A trio of actors delivered all that and more opening night. These are complex characters Pinter has created and they fall flat if not given room for that complexity by the actors.

Under the direction of Matthew Michaelis, this play moves from the end of the story to the beginning with nary a misstep.

The story is of Robert, whose wife, Emma, has an seven-year affair with Jerry, who is Robert’s best friend and who was the best man t their wedding. This might have been the ho-hum "him, him and her" love triangle story. But it is so much more than that.

This play is about the deceits, big and small, that can fill a life and drive you off track. It’s about people who get hurt, people who do the hurting and how each of them copes with the fallout.

Joe Krapf, who plays the buttoned-up Robert and Andrew Riebau, who plays the Scotch-fueled Jerry, absolutely sparkle. Krapf is the one who carries his cuckold with a stiff upper lip while Riebau manages to ignore the chasm and remain best friends with Robert.

Amy Hansmann is a gigantic surprise as Emma. She smolders on stage. She is sexy, uncertain, lonely, deceitful, passionate and afraid.

She loves her family and loves the flat she and Jerry have rented. She wants the flat to become a home, something more than a bedded cloister for afternoon sexual romps with Jerry. She cooks stews and buys a tablecloth in Venice, all to create what is her great illusion – a second home to share with her lover.

The opening scene of the play takes place two years after Jerry and Emma have broken up. So we all know how this drama ends.

But what makes this such a great play is that it proves, again, that it is the journey that is the really fascinating part of life.

There were fewer than a dozen people in the audience opening night. That’s a shame. This is a play that deserves a big crowd.

For more information, visit soulsticetheatre.org.

Cast: Amy Hansmann, Andrew Riebau, Joe Krapf. Director: Matthew Michaelis. Stage manager: Josh Perkins. Costumes: Char Manny. 

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