Given theater’s common two-act structure, the intermission break provides a natural spot to insert a cliffhanger.
Fittingly, many productions follow suit; act ones have the habit of ending with cliffhangers, a heightened mid-narrative climax where the stakes for what’s to come are at a TO BE CONTINUED!!! peak.
BUT, act twos tend to start by jumping ahead in time; we land in the fallout from the cliffhanger, and we deduce — or are told — what happened between then and now. Which is all well and dandy!…
But I have a particular appreciation for when the second act picks up EXACTLY where act one leaves off.
Like, down to the second.
The latest example: the recording of A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story from the West End. The first act concludes with the dismembered voice of The Ghost of Christmas Present ominously beckoning Scrooge through a portal to WHO KNOWS WHERE?! The sound builds to a cacophony as he approaches the doorknob. . . and then, BLACKOUT.
Intermission Interval! 15 20 minutes later, the lights rise on Scrooge still trepidatiously lumbering towards that door. There’s just something so wondrously cheeky/corny/cheesy/hokey about this bit of stagecraft; I get a little blip of bemusement every time I encounter it.
But my favorite example of a TBC (To Be
Continued Cliffhangered) can be found in Spring Awakening:
Horndogs will remember that the final scene of act one sees our two lovers ferociously tearing each other’s clothes off with the flush of first lust. The sequence crescendos into the orgiastic moment of initial penetration.
BUT THEN, when act two begins, THE’YRE BACK AT IT! And let me tell you:
High school Steve was a happy camper.