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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Beyond the Horizon

Beyond the Horizon
Ashley DeMain and
Joshua Drew

Eugene O'Neill's tragedy Beyond the Horizon astonished audiences when it opened on Broadway in 1920 and subsequently received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Where previous American plays tended toward melodrama and stock characterization, O'Neill's work offered complex people who could not be considered simply heroes or villains. American Century Theater in Arlington, Virginia, demonstrates that there's still life in the play, even if one of director Kathleen Akerley's conceits is a bit too complicated for its own good.

The play is an elemental depiction of just how badly awry good intentions can go. Andrew Mayo (Felipe Cabezas) is devoted to his family's New England farm, while his brother Robert (Joshua Drew) prefers reading and looking beyond the horizon, planning to go to sea on a ship captained by his uncle (Joe Cronin). Their parents (plain-spoken Chuck Young, sensitive Jane E. Petkofsky) assume that Andrew will marry Ruth Atkins, daughter of the farmer next door, but she prefers Robert—setting in motion a downward spiral leading to destruction.

Drew, with his guileless face and dreamy attitude, and wiry, muscular Cabezas are both well suited to their roles. The director also had the inspired idea of using a life-size puppet (instead of a child actress) to represent Robert and Ruth's toddler daughter, with appropriate vocal and physical expression by Ashley DeMain.

The problematic flourish in Akerley's direction comes in her depiction of Ruth. To minimize what she sees as the playwright's view that Ruth is a bitter, unsympathetic woman who causes Robert's downfall, she has chosen to cast the role with a different actress in each act. While each one is fine, if a little overly mannered, it's confusing to see DeMain in the first act, the full-bodied, wide-eyed young woman who suggests promise in the future; Eli Sibley in the second act, worn out and frustrated, trying to hold the farm and her family together; and Amy Quiggins—who earlier played Ruth's angry, judgmental mother—seem to achieve a form of peace in the third. One of these performers, possibly Sibley, could have conveyed the different facets of the character without the confusion.

American Century Theater
Beyond the Horizon
January 14th February 12th
By Eugene O'Neill
Andrew Mayo: Felipe Cabezas
Robert Mayo: Joshua Drew
James Mayo to Ben to Doctor Fawcett: Chuck Young
Ruth Atkins to Little Mary to Mrs. Atkins: Ashley DeMain
Captain Dick Scott: Joe Cronin
Kate Mayo: Jane E. Petkofsky
Mrs. Atkins to Ruth: Amy Quiggins
Ruth: Eli Sibley
Directed by Kathleen Akerley
Gunston Theatre II, 2700 S. Lang St.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-553-8782 or www.americancentury.org


Photo: Dennis Deloria


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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