Friday, January 15, 2016

Strange Interlude (1963)

Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude was presented by members of The Actors Studio Theatre in 1963. The hit play ran for 97 performances at the Revival Hudson Theatre and then the Martin Beck Theatre from March 11, 1963 through June 29, 1963 (with a preview performance on March 9).

The Tony Award nominee starred many well-known actors, including Betty Field, Jane Fonda, Ben Gazzara, Pat Hingle, Geoffrey Horne, Geraldine Page, William Prince, and Franchot Tone. The Pulitzer Prize-winning play focuses on Nina Leeds (Geraldine Page), a young woman who throws herself into unsavory relationships after the death of her first love in World War I. Pregnant with her unstable new husband's (Pat Hingle) child, Nina decides to secretly terminate the pregnancy and replace Sam's baby by immediately getting pregnant by an intelligent physician (Ben Gazzara).

Pretty intense stuff, eh? Especially for a play that was written in 1923 and first produced on Broadway in 1928. Because of its content, the play was banned in certain cities in its initial run. When the Actors Studio took it over in 1963, the play was heralded as one of the finest of the theater. Richard Severo, in his column "Theatre Review" dated March 16, 1963, insisted that "no one interested in good theatre can afford to miss it...the Actors Studio has scored a major triump, for 'Strange Interlude' is a production of the first rank". In the March 13, 1963 article, "Actors Studio's First 'Child' is a Hefty and Healthy Success", William Glover raved that the play "hit the bull's-eye of superb theatrical excitement...The long, tumultuous drama shows some signs of vintage quaintness. And although the play may still be the thing, this time the playing is even more important". Praising the "stellar cast", Glover remarked, "...each has created an unforgettable portrait and fused them into a colorful tapestry of dark splendor".

As a member of the stellar cast, 57-year-old Franchot Tone played the part of Nina's father, Professor Henry Leeds. His character was responsible for preventing Nina from marrying her first love before he went off to war. Strange Interlude lasted more than four hours and even included an extra break for dinner between the 5th and 6th acts. Franchot, however, only appeared in Act 1 and could often be seen in the audiences of other plays around town after his scenes were finished.

Source: eBay

In researching this fascinating play I discovered that it was actually recorded in its entirety and sold as a record! I do not own a copy, but it immediately went to the top of my wishlist!  How perfect an evening would it be to sit back and listen to Franchot and the cast act out this play in the comfort of your own home?

I do own an original Strange Interlude playbill and am including a few photos of that here. Although I would love to eventually own an autographed photo or handwritten note of his, right now it doesn't really match my budget and there haven't been a lot available on auction sites when I've browsed (Update: I have one now!!!). Knowing Franchot's extensive career in the theater and mourning the fact that I would never get to watch him in a play (apart from the Uncle Vanya film), I chose to start my own little FT theater collection. It's very small so far, but I really cherish the playbills I have! I bought Bicycle to Nevada back in October. Near Christmas, my husband told me to show him my top 4 coveted playbills and that he would surprise me with 1 of the 4. I was shocked to open up ALL FOUR on Christmas Eve! So, now my glorious little collection includes Bicycle to Nevada, Strange Interlude, The Fifth Column, The Second Man playbills and an unused feedback postcard for The Gentle People.


Strange Interlude playbill
 
Strange Interlude playbill
 
Strange Interlude playbill
 
Strange Interlude playbill
Photos from the Play in NYPL's Collection
 
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Strange interlude. [1963]" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1963. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/d3e64530-d8f0-012f-1266-58d385a7bbd0

Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Strange interlude. [1963]" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1963. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/e0a46bb0-d8ef-012f-576d-58d385a7bbd0

Source: Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Strange interlude. [1963]" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1963. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/e7e1ec80-d8f0-012f-c70c-58d385a7bbd0

Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Strange interlude. [1963]" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1963. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/03835d70-d8f1-012f-a7a4-58d385a7bbd0

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