Feature: Good News, Bad News and Coming Attractions at 4615 Theatre

Jordan Friend, founder of the company, talks about myth-making and morality as ‘Betrayal’ finishes its DC run. Next stop: ‘The Infinite Tales,’ a new work based on Irish folklore, comes to the Writer’s Center in December.

First, the bad news. Enron, the farcical, scary and all-but-unbelievable romp through the biggest fraud in corporate history, has closed.

Matt Dewberry as Jerry and Caroline Dubberly as Emma in 'Betrayal' by 4615 Theatre Company. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.
Matt Dewberry as Jerry and Caroline Dubberly as Emma in ‘Betrayal’ by 4615 Theatre Company. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

The good news is that there’s still time—four more performances this weekend—in which to see Betrayal, Harold Pinter’s beautifully inverted play about a marriage propped up by lies.

Both plays have been running in rep at 4615 Theatre Company, which at the moment is housed at the Dance Loft on 14th Street. The company’s next show, a musical based on Irish folklore, will open at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda in December.

Pinter’s Betrayal

The current offering, Betrayal, is a landmark drama from a playwright whose clipped dialogue, full of cryptic messages, has influenced—and often been parodied by—generations of writers.

In this production, Pinter’s silences often speak louder than words.

In fact, the play—in which a husband, his wife and her lover circle each other, playing out a game of deceit—is so smoothly performed that the dialog doesn’t seem cryptic at all. It’s a lot better than many other enactments of Pinter-esque repartee, and bears no resemblance to the Pinter parodies that seem to litter undergraduate stages.

Jared H. Graham as Robert in 'Betrayal' by 4615 Theatre Company. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.
Jared H. Graham as Robert in ‘Betrayal’ by 4615 Theatre Company. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

Of the three actors, Caroline Dubberly is extraordinary as the woman who cares too much. Jared H. Graham is perfect as the understated (and incredibly arrogant) British intellectual. Matt Dewberry, on the other hand, is a puzzle as an overly emotional lover. However, that may be a deliberate ploy on the part of Stevie Zimmerman, the director, who’s as British as Pinter.

Betrayal is the second of two plays that ran back-to-back as part of 4615 Theatre’s ‘Summer of Scandal.’ (To read DCMTA’s reviews, click on Enron and/or Betrayal.)

Portraits in Deceit

I caught up with Jordan Friend, the 26-year-old founder of 4615, and complimented him on the timing of the plays. Cheating, after all, is everywhere nowadays. But how, I asked, did he choose these particular embodiments of chicanery?

“We began with Enron,” he said. “I had come across it, and shared it with Stevie Zimmerman, our resident director, who agreed that the time was right for a revival.” (The play, by British playwright Lucy Prebbles, was a hit in London, but then bombed on Broadway in 2010.)

There was just one problem, and that was that Enron, written for a stage large enough to fit 20 actors, seemed beyond the small theater’s limitations.

But Friend, who was directing the play, was not deterred. “We decided we could simply shape it to fit a black box space.” They cut the cast to 13 actors, most of them playing multiple roles. The characters were kept in constant movement, thanks to Jonathan Ezra Rubin, the fight and intimacy choreographer.

Once the first play was chosen, the second was easy. “We were looking for something else with a theme of deception, and then realized that Pinter’s Betrayal, which we’d been planning to produce later on, was the perfect match.”

Although Betrayal, on its surface, seemed altogether different from Enron—one is a tale of intimacy, while the other is a corporate epic—both lent themselves to a single set: a backdrop of louvered doors. “Only the furniture needed to be changed,” the producer added.

Danielle Gallo as Raptor in ‘Enron.’ Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.
Danielle Gallo as Raptor in ‘Enron.’ Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

As for Enron, rumor has it that 4615 may bring it back, since the show—complete with its dinosaur-like raptors who wander around eating debt—was wildly successful.

What next?

For its next production, 4615 is presenting an original work and moving to a new location.

The Infinite Tales—which arrives December 6 at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda—is a world premiere, based on Irish mythology and tied to the theme of exile. It was adapted by Gregory Keng Strasser, who also directs it, from a collection of Gaelic folk tales.

Friend describes it as a “fantastical piece of theater, complete with an original score and puppetry.” It’s a fairy tale about lost children, kicked out of their home and turned into swans.

In March, the show is Museum 2040, about a mythic event that hasn’t happened yet. Tune in next spring for details.

Asked what the company has learned as it embarks on its third season, Jordan Friend laughed.

“That’s easy,” he said. “First, our limitations are our advantages. We come up with our most original creative work when we’re working under the twin constraints of budget and size. I love the challenge of a small space.”

And second? “That good theater involves taking risks, both mentally and experientially,” he said.

Producing Harold Pinter’s Betrayal certainly involved risk. It’s a riveting performance. And there are just four more chances to see it.

Running Time:  90 minutes, with no intermission.

Betrayal plays through September 8, 2019, at 4615 Theatre Company performing at the Dance Loft on 14th, 4618 14th Street NW, Washington, DC. For tickets, go online.

Note: Industry professionals are eligible to receive a 50 percent discount for the final weekend of Betrayal. Just add the promotional code “INDUSTRY4615” on the order form.

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