Follow TV Tropes


Theatre / Strange Interlude

Go To

Strange Interlude is a 1932 play by Eugene O'Neill.

Nina Leeds is the daughter of a college professor in the years immediately following The Great War. Her great regret is not marrying, or at least bonking, her beloved fiance Gordon, before he went off to France and was killed in action. Unable to get past her lost love, she decides to become a nurse to wounded veterans, and to have sex with as many of them as she possibly can.

Eventually Nina, utterly unaware of the fact that her father's old friend Charles Marsden loves and adores her, marries an amiable dunce named Sam Evans. Nina gets pregnant by Sam but then finds out that insanity runs in Sam's family. So she aborts the baby and instead gets pregnant by family friend Dr Edmund "Ned" Darrell, and in the process, falls in love with him.

The Other Wiki calls Strange Interlude "an experimental play". For starters, it is very long, extending for nine acts. Additionally, in this play the characters actually verbalize their internal thoughts to the audience, with their inner monologue taking up more of the running time than the dialogue between characters. In some productions the actors hold up masks when delivering their dialogue to other characters, to make clear the distinction between spoken dialogue and inner monologue.


Strange Interlude was adapted into a 1932 film starring Norma Shearer and Clark Gable.


  • Dashed Plot Line: The time elapsed between consecutive acts is at least half a year, sometimes a little over a year, sometimes a decade or slightly more.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Nina, forever obsessed with dead Gordon, names her son Gordon.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Queer" is used in its original meaning of "strange" on many occasions.
  • Inner Monologue: This is what the aside comments that make up the bulk of the play are supposed to get across, the stream-of-consciousness inner monologue of each character.
  • The Lost Lenore: Nina can't get past Gordon, who is already dead when the play starts. She sleeps with wounded soldiers because she feels like she has to, after never getting to sleep with Gordon. Charles, for his part, is jealous of a dead man. Ned gets pretty much sick of hearing Nina talk endlessly about Gordon.
  • Advertisement:
  • Love Triangle: Ned starts to feel bad about sleeping with another man's wife.
    Ned: Only you must admit these triangular scenes are, to say the least, humiliating.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Nina elects to get pregnant by Ned and pass the baby off as Sam's.
  • Momma's Boy: Charlie is excessively devoted to his mother, to the point where other characters hold him in contempt. When she dies he's reduced to a shuffling wreck.
    Nina: Poor Charlie … he was so tied to her apron strings …
  • Oblivious to Love: Nina can't catch on that Charles, whom she's known since she was a child, is now in love with her.
  • Our Acts Are Different: Nine acts. Nine. Presumably theatergoers of 1932 took artificial stimulants.
  • Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: Charles's desire for Nina coexists uncomfortably with his terror of sexuality in general. He remembers with shame a teenaged encounter with a prostitute, and Ned doesn't tell him about Nina's sexual activities due to concern over Charles's "ladylike soul." In one scene Charles chastely kisses Nina's hair and decides he is "no more ashamed of being pure."
  • Posthumous Character: Gordon looms over everything everyone does. Nina still loves him and the others still talk about him.
  • Really Gets Around: Nina really sluts it up when working as a nurse. Ned hesitates to tell a sensitive Charles "the raw truth about her promiscuity."
  • Shout-Out: When Nina is unusually cheerful, a pleased Charles quotes Pippa Passes and the famous line "God's in his heaven, all's right with the world!"
  • Third-Person Person: Nina and Ned both start referring to her in the third person when they're trying to talk themselves into having sex, so she can have a baby, which she will pass off as Sam's.
    Nina: But she is ashamed. It's adultery. It's wrong.
  • Title Drop: A bitter old Nina thinks that "the present is an interlude … strange interlude in which we call on past and future to bear witness we are living!" And later, right at the end, she says "Strange interlude! Yes, our lives are merely strange dark interludes in the electrical display of God the Father!"

Tropes found in the 1932 film:

  • An Arm and a Leg: The film opens with Charlie passing a one-legged soldier in the street.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The makers of the film chose to present the Inner Monologs as voiceovers. The first one starts with Charlie looking straight at the camera. After that, the fourth wall remains intact as the voiceovers play while the characters' eyes look somewhere else.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: