Stage Plays
Click here to read an excerpt from "Interlock"

Interlock

(Above) Celeste Holm, Maximilian Schell

Set in the years following World War Two, Interlock chronicles the cunning manipulations of the aristocratic Mrs. Price, as she seeks to turn the attentions of Paul from his fellow German-refugee fiancé Hilde (Price's live-in companion) to herself.

Interlock was Ira Levin's first original (non-adapted) stage play, and opened on February 6th, 1958 at Broadway's ANTA Playhouse, following out-of-town tryouts at Delaware's Wilmington Playhouse, and Washington D.C.'s National Theatre.

Having just experienced monumental success with both his first novel A Kiss Before Dying and his one adapted stage play No Time For Sergeants, Levin – by that point a credentialed TV writer as well – was pursued by Hollywood, with offers reaching into the seven figures. But, ever one to follow his muse, he opted to pursue his first passion, the theater.

Also typically for Levin, he followed Sergeants' broad comedy with a complete course change – toward the pure psychological drama of Interlock: “[Ira Levin] burst upon the theater three seasons ago as adapter of “No Time For Sergeants,” an exercise in hilarity that could not make his change of mood more astonishing.” —Washington Evening Star (1958)

Even at this early juncture, Levin was pushing envelopes – and sometimes finding audiences (or perhaps more accurately, critics) pushing back. Interlock proved too cerebral and subtle for American theater of the time. No less than The New Yorker seemed to miss the point entirely, expecting from the then-in-use descriptor 'melodrama' that there would be acts of actual physical violence on offer, bemoaning that “Mr. Levin was content with what might be called an intellectual triumph of evil.” (Some critics later faulted Rosemary's Baby for its own 'intellectual triumph of evil' – as well as for lacking the requisite amount of blood and gore to be considered 'true' horror.)

Savvier customers understood what was actually on offer in Interlock. Tom Donnelly of the Washington Evening Star noted: “[Interlock] is vastly superior to the bulk of what we have been having. It is an intelligent melodrama.” Adding “Audiences may feel, and the New York critics may say, that “Interlock” ought to be less like life and more like Agatha Christie, with more ingeniously mechanical twists and turns, with comfortably black-and-white characters, and with some astonishing trick of violence at the finale. I found “Interlock” a continuously entertaining study in corruption by logic, with something of the acid view of the sex-and-power struggle that marks a number of the better plays from Europe,” while simultaneously praising the play's “theatrical–literary quality.”

  • For those seeking acting monologues, this blogger has posted several Interlock suggs

  • The production marked the American acting debut of Maximilian Schell. His role, Paul – a classical pianist – called for some significant keyboard duties. Schell, as it happens, was a classically-trained pianist, and played all his music live at each performance
  • The 1958 New York Journal-American published playgoers' capsule reviews alongside their own — unaware that one such review was given to them by Levin's oldest friend, Julius ("Julie") Medwin:

Gallery

(Photos credit Vandamm Studio)