Betrayal, Non-Prophet Theatre Company, at American Blues Theatre. With every line of dialogue so carefully positioned, every underlying meaning so cunningly layered, every pause so perfectly devised, Harold Pinter’s knowing and witty examination of infidelity leaps off the page as an exquisite, precise blueprint for magnificent drama. But without actors skilled enough to build the drama that exists on paper, the whole structure inevitably comes tumbling down.

The trio of relatively recent Lincoln College graduates that director Jerry Dellinger has assembled for his production of this Pinter masterpiece have their moments of pith and resonance. As the adulterous pair, Emma and Jerry, Colleen McLaughlin and Michael Loeffelholz are particularly effective at mining the pathos that can exist in a silence or beneath a seemingly offhand or waggish Pinter line; Loeffelholz brings a surprising amount of sensitivity to the words of a playwright who’s frequently criticized for being distant and cold.

But their green efforts are undermined by Jeffrey Griggs, playing Robert, Emma’s husband and Jerry’s best friend; his imprecise diction and occasionally incomprehensible dialect turns some of Pinter’s greatest speeches into mush. And though Dellinger astutely stages the drama with a minimum of well-chosen props, none of his actors is anywhere near seasoned or mature enough to make Pinter’s dazzlingly acerbic and circumlocutory discussions of the British literary scene seem credible. Rent the movie.

–Adam Langer