BY Arthur Gelb
FROM The New York Times, October 26, 1962
'Beyond the Horizon' Given in
The Fred Miller Theater, which recently
acquired a permanent artistic director
and a cushioning Ford Foundation grant, opened its season here
last night with a sensitively staged
production of Eugene O'Neill's 42-year-old
play, "Beyond the Horizon."
The first O'Neill play produced on Broadway, it depicts
the tragedy of two brothers—one an idealist who scraps
his dream of adventure for marriage and life on a farm,
to which he is unsuited; and the other
a farmer attuned to the soil, who exiles
himself when his brother wins the
girl he loves.
Perhaps the impact of "Beyond the Horizon" was not
quite so epochal an event last night as
it was in New York in 1920. But a number of
significant parallels can be drawn
between the two occasions.
Regional theater, as represented by the 346-seat Fred
Miller, is just beginning to realize
its potential; cities like Milwaukee, not
notably theater-conscious in the past,
are now deemed "ready" to accept and
support serious drama.
Broadway in 1920, notoriously frivolous-minded,
was "ready" to be set on its ear by a
tragedy, and receptive, from then on, to the
body of theatrical literature that was to
Like the 1920 Broadway production, last night's performance rose
above limitations of budget, casting, scenic
difficulties, and an audience not yet quite at
home with the sort of stark drama represented
But once again, the poignant tragedy of the thwarted
dreamer—the valiant defeat of the poet
waylaid by an unworthy idea—became
vibrantly and affectingly alive.
The original production was thrown together
from the two casts of two other Broadway
plays; its producer, unwilling to risk
his money, gave it a makeshift matinee, with
garish, second-hand scenery.
Paul Shyre, artistic director of the Fred Miller, has
been unable to lure experienced Broadway actors to
Wisconsin with the limited funds at his
disposal. And instead of O'Neill's poetically
conceived horizon and hills, difficult to
convey even on a proscenium stage, Mr.
Shyre has had to make do on his open
platform with a few papier-mâché hummocks
and a cardboard tree or two.
The results, however, are all to the good.
With a minimum of scenery, and an audience intimately surrounding
the stage, Mr. Shyre has been forced to
evoke the shifting moods of the play with
skillful groupings of his actors and delicate nuances
And his young players, particularly those in the
character parts, have been obliged to make up in sincerity what they
lack in experience.
They do remarkably well. When Anne Lynn, as the
shallow, disillusioned girl who has inadvertently wrecked her husband's
and her own life, weeps with frustration, genuine tears spring from her
eyes. Her bitterness and despair are touchingly real.
Michael Ebert, as the thwarted hero, Robert Mayo,
grows gaunt and hollow-eyed within inches of the audience, until his
suffering is almost
too much to bear. If a reservation. must be made about his generally
convincing performance, it is that he lacks the vigor of the idealist in
his early scenes, before circumstances have crushed him, and that he
relies a bit too heavily on the business of coughing and gasping in his
James Broderick, as the older brother, Andrew, who
barters his soul for success, strikes a nice balance between the gruff
and the tender.
As the quartet of older people, George Vogel,
Sylvia Gassel, John Leighton and Margaret Fitzgerald manage, despite
their youth, to be convincing at close quarters.
While their powdered heads are a bit obviously
theatrical—they range too carefully from
yellowish to blue-gray to look real—their walks, gestures and vocal
inflections unfalteringly convey crotchety and hard-bitten old age.
conscious and starless as it is—is a tribute
both to the enduring universality of the play, and to the
resourcefulness of Milwaukee's newly reorganized civic theater.