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Open: 02/15/12- Close: 03/08/12 Beyond The Horizon
Reviewed for By: Heather Violanti

Carol Rosegg ©2023  Lucas Hall & Rod Brogan

BEYOND THE HORIZON is another fine O’Neill revival from Irish Repertory Theatre.  Under the skillful direction of Ciaran O’Reilly, the production lays bare the play’s emotions while underplaying its melodrama. 

The Pulitzer Prize-winning BEYOND THE HORIZON was O’Neill’s first full-length play.  It tells the story of a love triangle amidst the bleak New England landscape.  Dreamer and poet Robert Mayo longs for adventure “beyond the horizon,” his hard-working brother Andy wants nothing more than to stay on the family farm.   But both men love the same woman—Ruth, the winsome girl-next-door—setting in motion a struggle they never anticipated.  

The play is clearly the work of a writer still finding his voice—bursting with passion one minute, tripping over awkward dramaturgy the next.  The opening scenes strain under the weight of too much exposition, too much talk from characters who cannot easily articulate their emotions.  And yet—there are glimmers of O’Neill’s poetry, as when Robert (O’Neill’s stand-in) talks about the sea and the sky, and his power, as in the scene where Ruth meets Andy after his return and is unable to tell him how she really feels.  Surprisingly, many of O’Neill’s key themes are already present as well:  the powerful lure of the sea, lives wrecked apart by the wrong dreams, the destructive power of despair. 

Carol Rosegg ©2023  Wrenn Schmidt & Lucas Ha

O’Reilly elicits strong performances from his ensemble that are passionate without being histrionic.  The members of the central love triangle are always compelling, even if O’Neill’s language doesn’t always sit easily in their mouths. Rod Brogan captures Andy’s workaholic earnestness, while Lucas Hall embodies Robert’s dreamy nature without shying away from his pettiness.  Wrenn Schmidt skillfully navigates the highs and lows of Ruth’s mercurial nature—not easy since Ruth transforms from an ingénue to a woman old before her time.  Patricia Conolly steals her scenes as the waspish Mrs. Atkins, whose comical self-pity conceals a shrewd business sense and surprising compassion.  Aimee Laurence shines as Mary, Robert and Ruth’s feisty four-year old. 

Hugh Landwehr’s set design creates the illusion of vast landscape upon the theatre’s tiny stage, its paneled floor and curved platforms at once suggesting open fields and the prow of a ship—and, with the addition of a table and desk, instantly transforming into a farmhouse.  Ryan Rumery’s haunting original music evokes Mayo family’s Irish heritage while reflecting the characters’ unspoken emotions.  Brian Nason’s lighting design aptly shifts between light and dark, most strikingly in bleak, dark winter moments of Robert’s illness, when the stage is illuminated by a dim lamp and the dying embers of a fire.

In all, this is a solid production of an rarely staged early O’Neill play—perhaps not as emotionally devastating as it could be in places (the final tragic tableau feels strangely muted)—but nonetheless well done. 

Irish Repertory : 132 West 22nd St