Beyond the Horizon was the play that made Eugene O’Neill “Eugene O’Neill.” After years writing expressionist vignettes for the bohemian Provincetown Playhouse, this, his Broadway debut, won O’Neill the 1920 Pulitzer and paved the way to his place in the theatrical pantheon. Seeing the work today, though, you may wonder what all the fuss was about. Set on a Massachusetts farm in the 1910s, this melodramatic love triangle, involving two brothers and the woman who is torn between them, feels like The Waltons as rewritten by Ibsen. The bad-boy dramatist seems to have fun injecting brooding Scandinavian psychodrama into such Americana. But for those expecting the force and complexity of his later masterpieces, like Long Day’s Journey Into Night, the slow, soap-opera proceedings here may disappoint.
Irish Rep’s Ciarán O’Reilly, who breathed new life into its recent revival of O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones, negotiates the verbose, slow-boiling proceedings with sensitivity, but not much excitement. His cast mostly performs with skill, patience and sincerity, but Rod Brogan’s overearnest stiffness as brother Andy doesn’t mesh with the more internal performances of leads Lucas Hall and Wrenn Schmidt.
That the play is so rarely produced alone makes this flawed yet faithful staging certainly an event for O’Neill fans. And if you can wait out the periodic longueurs, you may find yourself jolted by its emotional surges and plot twists. After all, a play with an intermission curtain line of “You slut!” can’t be all bad.—Garrett Eisler