Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

On the Far End
Ford's Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent reviews of Shout Sister Shout!, The Nosebleed and The Jungle

Mary Kathryn Nagle
Photo by Margot Schulman
Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, has opened its Second Annual National Capital New Play Festival with the world premiere of an important work. On the Far End, a one-woman play written and performed by Mary Kathryn Nagle, tells a story too little known: the battle of Indigenous tribes for sovereignty over their own communities under U.S. law. Director Margot Bordelon shapes Nagle's performance as she gives her testimony, showing how rage over injustice can lead to resilience rather than resignation.

Over the course of 90 engrossing minutes, Nagle shares, in first person, the experiences of Ella Jean Hill Chaudhuri (1937-1997), an advocate for the Muscogee (also known as Creek) tribe–and the mother of Nagle's husband, although she died before Nagle married Jean's son. The title phrase quotes the U.S. Supreme Court's 2020 McGirt v. Oklahoma decision, which restored the Muscogee Nation's right to self-government: Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that "on the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise" that had been broken too many times.

On Paige Hathaway's spare but evocative set, which includes both an elaborate writing desk and a young tree, Nagle works from Jean's written words to share her story. The family's deep roots stretch back to Jean's grandfather, who lived to be over 100 but, as a 7-year-old boy, was forced to walk the Trail of Tears from ancestral Muscogee land in Alabama to a reservation in Oklahoma. (Among other things, she notes that the city name Tulsa derives from a Muscogee word meaning "Old Town.")

One important part of Nagle's retelling of Jean's story is that–with anger but with resolve, not resentment–it lays out the inequities and abuse Indigenous people faced with the approval of the U.S. government. For example, while the Indian Health Service did provide medical care to residents of reservations, Indigenous populations who lived elsewhere (such as in cities) often were unable to access necessary care and many people died.

Also, the play's examination of "otherness" broadens when Jean, the so-called "Indian," marries an actual Indian from Bengal. (Nagle is also Indigenous, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.) Jean speaks of the problems the family faced regarding strict racial categories, since their skin color was too dark for her two sons to be accepted in white schools but they also weren't considered Black and didn't fit established rules of segregation.

On the Far End runs through May 7, 2023, in rep with Jennifer Who Is Leaving, at Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda MD. For tickets and information, please call 240644-1100 or visit

By Mary Kathryn Nagle
Directed by Margot Bordelon

Jean: Mary Kathryn Nagle