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Teen Critic Review: Jarring Intimacy Makes Strange Interlude Personal

About the Program

Designed for high school students interested in journalism and/or critical writing, the Teen Critic Program at Shakespeare Theatre Company teaches students how to view theatrical productions with a critical eye and how to write an informed comprehensive theatre review.

Teen Critics will be invited to the Press Night for each production (two complimentary tickets per production), receive a press packet, preferred press seating and will have the opportunity to meet with professional theatre critics from local newspapers and members of Shakespeare Theatre Company staff to learn about how to write an effective theatre review.

After seeing each show, Teen Critics will write a review and submit it to the Shakespeare Theatre Company Education Department (due one week after Press Night).  STC education staff will work with the Teen Critic to make revisions and then the review will be published in a school newspaper or online.

Jarring Intimacy Makes Strange Interlude Personal

By Emma Marshall (Sidwell Friends School)

Watching Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude as directed by Michael Kahn at the Shakespeare Theatre Company feels strangely indecent, as though the audience is a prying voyeur. It is fascinating and immensely strange, and also decidedly enjoyable. It is personal and intimate, absorbing the viewer into the fray of emotion that both tears asunder and forever bonds the characters. From the script, which is marked with frequent asides illustrating the true feelings and thoughts of the characters, to the set, which invites the audience to peer into a closed room despite the impropriety suggested by such an act, the performance exudes an immediacy that is difficult to ignore.

The play follows the life of one woman, Nina, over 30 years. The plot tracks her relationships with the men who are central in her life, always colored by the memory of her deceased fiancé. Such a story requires a connection to the emotions of characters, and the cast forges that connection with aplomb. The actors themselves perform complex psychological roles with remarkable realism, making strange quirks and utter twistedness believable. Francesca Faridany, as Nina, is properly angry, bitter and hurt as one who has lost her true love and is left bereft after war. Her performance is nothing short of fascinating. Faridany absorbs you into her pain as her life reels and stumbles through each consequent sorrow—a loveless marriage, losing a baby, and the inherent sorrows of motherhood. Robert Stanton, as the stuffy, grandmotherly Charles Marsden, is immensely comical while retaining a sense of emotional humanity. Ned Darrell, portrayed by Baylen Thomas, is precisely calculating in his scientific denial of emotion, until he can stand it no longer, and then he is quietly feeling and honest. Finally, Ted Koch is sweetly naïve as Sam Evans, the good-hearted country boy turned business tycoon. He is not overwrought in a character that flirts with two extreme stereotypes, but steady and comfortable in both extremes of his character.

Over the course of 30 years, characters must age, and costume designer Jane Greenwood and wig designer Tom Watson age the actors elegantly, making them continually identifiable while still implying the wear and tear of age. The set, designed by Walt Spangler, is a modern and reductive room, all white and sparse.  To alter the setting, images are projected onto the blank walls, under the jurisdiction of projection director Aaron Rhyne, to provide an immensely versatile space—a study, a living room and a forum for the indication of passing time as images of war and the events of many years flash by. The construction of the set forces the audience to look through seemingly sacred boundaries—the walls of one’s own home—and adds to the feeling of immediacy and intimacy that is central to this production.

Strange Interlude is less of an interlude, and more of an epic. Lasting almost four hours, with two intermissions, this play requires some degree of preparedness and focus. It is, however, certainly worth the time. One feels confused and unsure upon exiting the show, having participated in a storm of emotion that is not one’s own, but at the same time undeniably entertained. The hours of performance somehow feel like 30 years and 30 minutes simultaneously. Kahn and his team make the viewer feel honored to have observed with such intimacy the turmoil of a lifetime.

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