Betrayal and the Hotel Edison Cafe

Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz in a photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Betrayal unfolds in reverse order to tell the story of an affair between a married woman and her husband’s best man and best friend, breaking up in 1977, and back to when it all began. Mike Nichols directs and infuses it with a lightness we don’t remember from last time we saw it and judged the play dated. Descending and sliding sets, particularly an Italian restaurant banquette where the two men get drunk together, are clever and convincing—though Nichols mysteriously omits the fun, 1968 party scene and gives us the three principals in a room off to the side while the party goes on, drinking (there is alcohol in every scene) and smoldering.

Husband and wife are embodied by glamorous real-life couple Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, who are great to see onstage rather than in the cinema. For one thing, they are life sized, no larger—or maybe it’s the roles that make them seem so. Weisz begins things on a shrill note that her character then has to spend the play recovering from. Craig, in a long-haired wig, must portray a prick who cheats on his wife. As soon as the play closes, he will return to being James Bond—a morally unencumbered role.

The betrayed party is not the husband, as you would think, but the best friend and best man, when he finds out in act one that his buddy has known about the affair for years and done nothing. The best friend, played by Rafe Spall, is natural and appealing, in the role the playwright identified with, and he knows how to do the Pinter pause. Harold Pinter wrote Betrayal in 1978 about his own affair, and it has the messy reality that a made-up play might not.

That's "$7.00," not "$700."

The Hotel Edison has appeared in recent fiction as a trysting place. The café has been around the block too, yet maintains the appearance, the portions, and even the prices of an earlier era. There are several versions of club sandwich, and pastrami and corned beef, served with a side of coleslaw and crisp pickles. Salads and the blintzes are very popular on the vast menu with four homemade soups every day. Theatre and film people are regulars. (Robert Forster, of Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, was there when we were.) The restaurant’s manager, Conrad, told us “James Bond” (Daniel Craig) sometimes drops by from the Ethel Barrymore Theatre across the street for a carryout quart of chicken soup.