Although a play about a betrayed wife coping with the sudden collapse of her marriage might sound at first like middle-class melodrama, Joanna Murray-Smith's "Honour" makes for surprisingly interesting viewing. Tight, crackling dialogue (usually played out in punchy verbal duels) captures characters unable to deal with emotions, and while this production (and its overly symbolic sets) fails to give full power to the script, the play itself triumphs. Murray-Smith effectively places her characters in situations that strip away pretense. Honor (Julia Blake) has sacrificed her writing career to help her husband, Gus (George Whaley), in his career, only to see her marriage crumble when Gus ankles for a woman 30 years his junior.

The play avoids neatly picking villains and heroes. Honor, while feisty during settlement negotiations, has been blind to the changes that have occurred around her and her daughter, Sophie (played to scene-stealing perfection by newcomer Kathryn Hartman). Gus is not portrayed so much as a womanizing cad, but a naive tool of manipulation by the younger (and scheming) woman.

“Honour” premiered at Melbourne’s Playbox Theater in 1995, and the following year was given a reading at Vassar College, with Meryl Streep and Sam Waterston under the direction of Ulu Grosbard. Preparations are said to be under way for a production in New York.

Honour

SYDNEY; Opened, reviewed Aug. 8, 1997at the Wharf ; 150 seats, A$30 ($22.50) top.

Production

: A Griffin Theater Company, Maggie Gray and Q Theater presentation, in association with the Sydney Theater Company, of a play in one act by Joanna Murray-Smith. Directed by Ros Horin. Sets, Michael Scott-Mitchell; costumes, Carson Andreas

Creative

lighting, Roderick van Gelder; music, Elena Kats-Chernin., Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

Cast

George Whaley (Gus), Anita Hegh (Claudia), Julia Blake (Honor), Kathryn Hartman (Sophie).
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more