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‘Fresh Horses,’ A New Play, Opens Off-Broadway

February 12, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ One man’s obsession can become a theater audience’s despair. That’s what happens in ″Fresh Horses,″ Larry Ketron’s stultifying drama of a doomed love affair which opened Tuesday at off-Broadway’s WPA Theater.

In ″Fresh Horses,″ the object of intense desire is Jewel, a nubile young woman from the wrong side of the tracks in a small, unnamed Southern town.

She has won the adoration of Larkin, a 22-year-old washout who has turned his life upside down for Jewel. He’s left college to spend more time with her. He’s moved out on his parents and into an abandoned railroad maintenance station. He spends his time creating games that are then rejected by toy companies.

What he doesn’t know is that Jewel is not 19 years old as she claims but actually is 16 and married to a sailor with a reputation for meanness. By the end of Act 1 Larkin has found out those startling facts and agrees to give her $200 for an annulment.

Neither person is very interesting and for distraction, Ketron pads his plot with a couple of quirky characters. There’s Sproles, a creepy, perennial college student who knows the facts of Jewel’s unsavory past.

It’s Sproles who gets to recall pretentiously the image of the Pony Express and its riders’ all-consuming thoughts of getting a fresh horse at each outpost as they raced across America. Sproles urges Larkin to do the same thing and look for a new girl.

In Act 2, three possibilities show up, a trio of rich girls to show Larkin that there is life beyond Jewel. They stage an unconvincing marshmallow fight with Larkin and his best friend Tipton that, in five minutes, peppers Edward T. Gianfrancesco’s authentically rundown railroad yard setting with scores of white globs.

Except for that inept battle, director Dann Florek manages to make the actors look convincing, although the interminable dialogue - much of it small talk to nudge the plot forward - keeps getting in the way.

For the record, the personable young actors are Mark Benninghofen, John Bowman, Alice Haining, Haviland Morris, Marissa Chibas and as the mismatched couple, Suzy Amis and Craig Sheffer. Undoubtedly they will be shown to much better advantage in the future.

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