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Three Plays: Desire Under the Elms / Strange Interlude / Mourning Becomes Electra
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Three Plays: Desire Under the Elms / Strange Interlude / Mourning Becomes Electra

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  1,091 ratings  ·  34 reviews
These three plays exemplify Eugene O'Neil's ability to explore the limits of the human predicament, even as he sounds the depths of his audiences' hearts.
Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 31st 1995 by Vintage (first published 1931)
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Out of largesse, 3-stars. Life is a "pipe dream," eh, and "dere's dat ol debbil sea." O, shut the fuk up, Gene. He yanked American drama away fr mawkish mellerdramer, and introduced sex & neurosis (on an adult level), bolstered by his knowledge of Freud, Jung and himself. Today he's unreadable and almost unplayable. I'm glad bio-writers keep his name flickering, I guess, but the only work that holds up is "Long Day's etc." Despite an interesting Life, his "theatre" of the psychic and subcons ...more
Cymru Roberts
This review concerns Desire Under the Elms.

Just as I see the list of characters in a play as an interesting preview of where the author's head is at, so too I see a later authors' choice of play when seeking to adapt any of the many myths of yore. Choosing Hippolytus is significant. It's one of my favorites by Euripides, so the fact that O'Neill, someone who I've felt a kinship with ever since Long Day's Journey into Night first mortally wounded me in high school, shares a similar taste in the G
Seth Kupchick
I read "Strang Interlude" kind of by surprise at 23 years old, when I was taking myself seriously as a creative writing major, because it beat working at a bookstore. I bought a great old O'Neill compendium called "Nine Plays" I'm pretty sure, and I didn't buy it for "Strange Interlude," but "Desire Under The Elms," which I loved for its raw sensuality, and very brutal view of sex, death, and life. But "Strange Interlude" really took me for a ride and showed me what theater could be though I nev ...more
O'Neill was actively channeling Greek Drama when he churned out these plays, which explains why they're so monumental and deliberate (the unkind would say occasionally stilted), and laced with sins and expiations greater than most mortal lives can contain.

This much I remember from my high school English classes, but it would have been nice had this edition included a little critical introduction discussing the playwright's influences - or explaining just how in holy hell anyone ever managed to
Strange Interlude is very good, but Desire Under the Elms and Mourning Becomes Electra are both masterpieces. O'Neill's just a genius when it comes to displaying his characters' souls, and whether what we see is revolting or noble, there is an underlying sympathy for just about every character that he pens in the two plays.

I read Desire Under the Elms for my dissertation. It's definitely a unique Hippolytus adaptation, but for me it didn't live up to the complexity of a play like Long Day's Journey into Night. Maybe it was tough to really get into this play because it is written in dialect--what sounds to me like a southern drawl, rather than a Connecticut dialect, but we can put that issue aside. And there are a lot of complex issues going on in this play, issues about rights, the nature of God, sons usurping fat ...more
Two stars for Desire Under the Elms

This probably wasn't the best O'Neill drama to start off with. For me it was coarse and dark, and none of the characters were really likable (although perhaps that was the point?).

The action was fast-moving and even a bit crazed. There also didn't seem to be a whole lot of true, believable character development.

Overall, just not my taste, but I still might try to read the others in the volume.

Update on April 30, 2011:

Four stars for Strange Interlude

In contrast
Paul Frandano
Re. Strange Interlude: this was the first O'Neill I'd read in more than 30 years - I'd read most of the major plays back in the day - and this was in fact a rereading. Given all the O'Neill tics and smothering stage direction, surprisingly contemporary, although wordier than even the wordy playwright needed it to be - did he really need to spell out, in explicitly abecedarian detail, every single thing? Controversial at the time, and O'Neill's most successful Broadway production, we have to wond ...more
This is intense melodramatic stuff. What is striking about Eugene O'Neill's dramas is the awarenes and portrayal of what protagonists are thinking juxtaposed to what they are actually saying. I imagine that the plays are therefore onyl producable for the radio. A large part of the action takes place at two simultaneous levels (the spoken and the unspoken). This stresses the siunity of the human persona and is therefore intensely psychological in the modern, post-Freudian sense of the word. The c ...more
So far I have only read one of the three playes - Mourning becomes Electra. I read it for a university course about "American Drama".

With a lot of references and similarities to Greek Mythology O'Neill wrote a family-drama taking place at the end of the Civil War in New England.

Right at the beginning is the heroic husband poisoned by his not-so-loving-anymore wife. His daughter, who always hated her mother and doted on her father, persuades her brother to take revenge and kill the lover of thei
These are crazy plays, with Greek tragedy underpinnings--Oedipus Rex, anyone? Interesting, but a little too much for me. Strange Interlude was, well, strange. I kept thinking, "How would this really work on a stage?" More than half of the dialogue was the character's thoughts. Mourning Becomes Electra was probably the best of the three, but still a lot of weirdness to it.
Very interesting plays, well written, although I found myself put off by some of the characters. Eugene O'Neill certainly gets to the core of human beings, but I do find myself thinking that, although his depiction is probably very accurate, I do not care for human beings as he depicts them.

Three different plays, three very different kinds of love, all three... shudderworthy. Lots of food for thought.
Laura Little
O'Neill channels Greek Oedipal tragedies strongly in this collection. Characters feel quite two dimensional - but that's precisely the point; the tragedies and deaths that unfold in each work are set in motion at the beginning, and each player must play their role to bring about ordained retribution. I've read Desire Under the Elms several times, but I find Mourning Becomes Electra a better exposition of a dysfunctional, vindictive, and jealous family.
I had to read these for a school course, and while the writing is good and complex I hate the characters. I hate who they are as people, and I hope to never read this again.
This one took me a while. A long while. A long long long while.

Desire Under The Elms is good, but I can barely remember what it is about.

Strange Interlude took me 3 months to read. Maybe more. However, when I finally finished it, I was amazed by the play. It has a great pay off... Though I do think it is too long, even though the length is necessary for the ending.

Mourning Becomes Electra is the quickest read, mostly because (in contrast to Interlude) there is so much action going on. It's no
Jan 13, 2008 Allison rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who aren't afraid of dark nights of the soul
Shelves: never-finished, drama
I read Desire Under the Elms and Mourning Becomes Elektra. I was so disturbed by the latter that I can't get myself to read Strange Interlude. I probably won't ever read it without the pressure of academic supervision. O'Neill is a richly skilled writer, but he is dark and humorless. Martin McDonagh, another dark playwright, writes about similarly tragic people and families, but adds a comic undertone that makes them entertaining. Mourning Becomes Elektra I read over the course of two days, and ...more
Julia Curtis
I only read one play from this collection, Desire Under The Elms. However, it was fantastic. It is a wonderful play about the culture of New Endlang, and the time frame that it was in. It showed how dark New England can be, and the effects of marrying down. There were many twists in the play, and then some that were predictable. It's a show that makes you want to jump off a cliff, so keep yourself away from sharp objects once you get to the last act.
Steven Mcguire
Desire Under the Elms is a play about very simple people tossed into a very complex situation. But in there ignorance you get a very emotional look into such great problems as opposed to a logical approach. So in essence these people seem much more human and relatable. The language is very hard to get past because the author really nails the southern slang but makes it difficult to read quickly and burn through it.
Nicole Rubano
am planning on seeing the broadway production of "desire under the elms" with a co-worker. The story is tragic, but the vernacular of the characters is fun and quick -despite the darkness of the storyline
Myles Mchale
Desire Under The Elms - sexy and engrossing
Strange Interlude - groundbreaking and thematically compelling
Mourning Becomes Electra - interesting and yet slacking in dramatic purpose
Eugene O'Neill has a crazy way of creating real-life characters doing strange stuff -- and I agree with it. If you like reading plays, I recommend reading one of his. llw
Dialect in "Desire Under the Elms" was distracting, and "Strange Interlude" took a while to get going, but the Mourning Becomes Electra cycle is goooood.
Read Desire Under the Elms and Strange Interlude in English 52: 20th Century Drama with Professor Donald Pease.
Aug 17, 2007 Sharon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: For writers
Shelves: plays
O'Neill is an overlooked playwright who was once studied consistently in academia. He's intense and very talented.
Wanda Lantrip
Mourning Becomes Electra is outstanding, but then again, everything O'neil wrote is a classic.
Immensely psychological, great language, meant to be read as much as produced, it seems.
Stephanie Hong Hastings
Can never get enough of O'Neill. Will read again in another year or two
Mar 16, 2009 Brian is currently reading it
Inspired by Goodman's amazing O'Neill festival this winter...
This rating is really for Desire. Haven't read the other two.
Lizette Valles
Eugene O' Neill is my favorite playwright (besides Shakespeare)!
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Eugene Gladstone O'Neill was an American playwright who won the 1936 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy." More than any other dramatist, O'Neill introduced American drama to the dramatic realism pioneered by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish playwr ...more
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