Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pan Plays with Fire

Amy Herzog’s new play, The Great God Pan – now playing at Playwrights Horizons, covers familiar ground, without being derivative at all.  The story works because of the unique viewpoint and an outstanding job by the lead, Jeremy Strong.
Keith Nobbs and Jeremy Strong in The Great God Pan

Pan opens with Jeremy Strong, as Jamie, meeting for the first time in thirty years with a childhood friend, Frank – excellently played by Keith Nobbs as he barely controlls his angst and expectations.  Frank tells Jamie that his father abused him, and possible others, including Jamie.
It is a familiar theme, but Ms. Herzog takes it into unexpected areas.  Jamie doesn’t remember any abuse at all; but his relationship with his girlfriend Paige, Sarah Goldberg in a fine turn, is strained.  Just like when someone reads the symptoms of a disease on WebMD and then sees the symptoms in themselves, Jamie questions himself with the possibility of past abuse.  Are the problems in the relationship due to abuse or his own personality?
Jeremy Strong & Sarah Goldberg
Jamie's parents, played Becky Ann Baker and Peter Friedman, are even less helpful.  After Jamie’s mother stonewalls him, his father shares some troubling information.  Nothing traumatic, just details that show Jamie that his parents are like anyone else, not perfect and occasionally selfish.
The Great God Pan works on an interesting level, did events happen in the past?  If so, do they still effect how we interact on a daily basis?  And is it reality or an excuse - or perhaps both?  The play works so well because the questions poised are meaningful.  A subtle touch by director Carolyn Cantor and an amazing turn by Jeremy Strong only increase the emotional impact.
Kudos must also go out to Mark Wendland, whose scenic design had me questioning choices at first, but ultimately enhanced the theme of the show.  Go see this play; it tackles real life with a light touch without diminishing a person’s experience.
The Great God Pan
Playwright: Amy Herzog
Director: Carolyn Cantor
Cast: Jeremy Strong, Becky Ann Backer, Peter Friedman, Sarah Goldber, Keith Nobbs, Joyce Van Patten, Erin Wilhelmi

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