Betrayal Since his first play, The Room, premiered in 1957, there has been quite a fuss about Harold Pinter. This fuss hasn't quieted yet (although there might have been a lull after the release of the film The French Lieutenant's Woman, for which Pinter wrote the screenplay). Betrayal is the story of an affair, and Pinter would insist that the affair is the focus, really. "I certainly don't write from any kind of abstract idea," he noted in his salad days, "and I wouldn't know a symbol if I saw one ... I'm convinced that what happens in my plays could happen anywhere, at any time, in any place, although the events may seem unfamiliar at first glance." That "unfamiliar" is wry understatement, and the sort of thing that makes Pinter's dialogue an art unto itself. This production of Betrayal is from What If Productions. Thu. & Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. Jewish Community Center, Joe Frank Theatre, 5601 South Braeswood. Tickets may be reserved by calling 664-5188. $10, 10 percent discount for seniors and students.
Rhinoceros Also known as "Inoceros-Rhay," this play by Eugene Ionesco is considered a classic of absurdist theater. Rhinoceros is set in a small French town peopled with ordinary folk in which a two-horned beast suddenly appears, bellowing and trampling. Good God, y'all! Everyone's going rhino! Except Berenger (played in Infernal Bridegroom's production by Jason Douglas and his beautiful bone structure); he is unwavering. As those around him go with the flow and sprout horns from their snouts, Berenger remains steadfast. His girlfriend (talented Jackson Gay) goes rhino, but he won't. Our hero's friend, Johnny (Andy Nelson, who's called "Johnny" despite the fact that the character's original name was Jean), spends a good deal of one act turning into a rhino. Though Johnny wasn't all that hip on being heavy-hided, he nonetheless rationalizes that he "must move with the times." Still, Berenger is unwavering. "I'm the last man left," he says, "and I'm staying that way till the end!"
Ionesco, scholars theorize, wrote Rhinoceros because of personal disgust. Before he left Rumania in 1938, he saw people he had considered peers seduced by the Iron Guard fascist movement. What Ionesco said, tightlipped as a square-lipped rhino, is that the play's personal: "I don't know if you noticed it, but when people no longer share your opinions, when you can no longer make yourself understood, you have the impression of being confronted by monsters! Rhinos!" This allegory is no doubt useful for our times. Despite the rather dark message -- that most people would succumb to peer pressure and pursue a pachydermatous existence -- there's a note of hope. Director Vicki Weathersby has made some promises about an accompanying video installation to be created by Darin Palmer and incorporating floating televisions. Chase Staggs has fashioned a variety of fabulous rhinoceri heads. Infernal Bridegroom Productions. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m. Commerce Street Art Warehouse, 2315 Commerce. Advance tickets available, call 522-0908. $5.99.
Snowfest Personally, I think snow is overrated. Where there's snow, there's salt and where there's salt, even the finest pair of boots won't last five minutes. Still, some people crave the fluffy white stuff. There will be snow in Missouri City today, several tons of it and, conveniently, right in the middle of a holiday carnival. This year's Snowfest honors Joe Romano, career Santa and all-around good egg. The Fort Bend County community 100th anniversary parade and fun run begins at 10 a.m. and then the Snowfest is on at 11:30. Missouri City Civic Center, 1522 Texas Parkway, 261-4260.