"BEYOND THE HORIZON," Eugene O'Neill's first full-length play to reach Broadway, survives mostly as a curiosity. In the straightforward, entertaining production at Source Theater's Warehouse Rep, it seems today a sentimental, somewhat overwritten rural melodrama.
O'Neill, who won the 1920 Pulitzer Prize for the drama, sounds his characteristic themes of thwarted dreams and disillusionment in this early effort, and includes a warning to follow your true nature and not be fooled by life's chimeras.
O'Neill draws ten years in the lives of a pair of archetypal brothers. Frail, dreamy Robert Mayo, born out of his element, yearns for the open road and the sea. Earthy, elemental Andy is a natural bred farmer. Robert has the chance to go to sea with a salty uncle, but on the eve of his departure, Andy's girl Ruth whimsically tells Rbert it's him she really loves. Smitten, Robert decides to stay, and in a pique, jilted Andy ships out instead. Each time Andy returns from his travels, he's become more prosperous, while beleaguered but never embittered Robert, a miserable failure at farming, has lost even more.
As written by O'Neill, these two brothers couldn't be more different, but blood ties and male bonding make them inseparable at the predictably tragic conclusion. There is more than a shade of autobiography in tubercular, wanderlustful Robert, who gets most of the good lines.
The play is passably acted by Source, with a very good performance from Michael Chaban as Robert, bringing an apt vulnerability (and a really alarming cough) to the role. Joanne Schmoll is fine as Ruth, particularly in conveying her petulant, self-pitying destructiveness. As Andy, Bill Reeves misses the sensitive side of his character (this is O'Neill). Reeves even speaks with a swagger, and too often sets himself in stiff hypermasculine postures.
Director Andy Wiesnet also designed the simple set, a grid of dusty green carpet and wooden planking that effectively (and economically) suggests an aerial view of a farm, and a winter's supply of firewood provides a rustic back wall.