Austin is home to many theater companies but a dwindling number of performance spaces. That’s why, though it’s always exciting to see a new group arise from the city’s artistic stew, one approaches them a bit cautiously. Many are the first productions of brand new companies; fewer are the second productions.
With a solid production of a classic play, a clear mission statement and a fully planned out inaugural season, the Filigree Theatre looks to be a company that will buck that trend.
Headed by artistic director Elizabeth V. Newman and managing director Stephanie Moore, Filigree has as its inaugural production Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal,” playing through Oct. 8 at the Santa Cruz Theatre. The show, directed by Newman and produced by Moore, was written in 1978 and tells the story of an extramarital affair by jumping chronologically backwards in time, revealing layers of secrets and adding more layers of mystery as it goes. Filigree’s production, thanks to its talented cast, cuts to the heart of these secrets with an intriguing, close-vested, nuanced version of the play.
The secret to the success of this production of “Betrayal” is its three main cast members — David Moxham, Emily Rankin and J. Kevin Smith (Felix Alonzo rounds out the cast in a charmingly comedic bit part). In the first scene, we learn about the seven-year affair between Moxham’s Jerry and Rankin’s Emma, just after Emma’s marriage to her husband, Robert (played by Smith), has fallen apart. As the play progresses, it goes backwards toward the start of the affair, playing with the audience’s consciousness of the tale’s tragic (or, perhaps more accurately, pathetic) ending alongside the continued revelations of new facts and misremembered events.
To play these deliciously layered levels of text and subtext requires extremely nuanced performances, and all three actors are more than up to the task. The subtle gestures, facial tics and posture changes of the characters speak volumes amid the famous “Pinter pauses” that litter the text, revealing as much through what remains unsaid as is told in the dialogue. Each character is constantly at odds, hiding secrets from the others as well as from themselves.
The simmering sexuality of the scenes between Jerry and Emma is matched by the quiet resentments of Emma’s relationship with Robert, and Robert’s dual jealousy and deep love of Jerry. Each relationship in this love triangle has its own tragic implications and secret possibilities.
Many of the play’s mysteries remain unresolved at the end, and it is quite possible that audience members — and the actors themselves — may come away with different beliefs about what they saw depending on the particular evening. For a set text to retain that level of spontaneity and individuality is quite a feat, but “Betrayal” pulls it off handily.
With such an accomplished first production under its belt, we can only hope to see continued work of such quality and excitement as Filigree Theatre continues to make itself known throughout Austin.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 8
Where: Santa Cruz Studio Theatre, 1805 E. Seventh St.
Information: 512-496-5208, filigreetheatre.com