by Lynn on July 6, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

July 4, 2013 Evening

At the Littelton Theatre, London. Written by Eugene O’Neill. Directed by Simon Godwin. Designed by Soutra Gilmour. Lighting by Guy Hoare. Music by Michael Bruce. Sound by Christopher Shutt. Starring: Patrick Drury, Anne-Marie Duff, Charles Edwards, Darren Pettie, Jason Watkins.

This is a shorter (3 hour and 30 minutes) version of O’Neill’s mammoth 5 hour and 25 minute play. It follows the lives of Nina Leeds, her obsession with the memory of her dead fiancé, Gordon, and the three men who were devoted to her. She was married to Sam but realized they could not have children because he carried a gene that rendered the males insane later in life. Her husband didn’t know. They wanted children. She can’t have them by Sam. What to do? Hmmmm Well, Dr. Edmund Darrell looks pretty beefy and he keeps coming around here so Nina proposes that Edmund come around in the afternoons for a bit of transference of body fluids. It works. She is pregnant. She names the resulting son Gordon after her dead fiancé. Sam is none the wiser. Edmund keeps leaving town to think about things. There is also Charles Marsden who is devoted to Nina and would ask her to marry him but doesn’t have the guts. And besides as Edmund says of Charles, he spends his whole life wondering what sexual preference he prefers and is totally confused by it all.

The play sprawls over decades. Nina holds dear to Gordon. She loves him above all others. She won’t let him go but has to eventually.

It’s not one of O’Neill’s best plays. The style seems stilted, with stodgy dialogue being spoken directly to characters, and just as quickly the private thoughts of those characters are expressed directly to the audience. It’s all so melodramatic. But it’s O’Neill and as such deserves to be done.

Anne-Marie Duff is dandy as Nina. Brittle, cool, imperious and a bit spooky. I remember Charles Edwards, who plays Charles Marsden. He was in the 39 Steps, a hoot of a play that sent up the whole business of the murder mystery. All very camp. Unfortunately that’s exactly how he gave his lines here in Strange Interlude. I don’t think that’s a good thing.

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