The Great God Pan
Memory may not be trustworthy in The Great God Pan, but Street Corner Arts' production is memorable
Reviewed by Elissa Russell, Fri., April 17, 2015
The Great God PanHyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd, 512/298-9776
Running time: 1 hr., 20 min.
A good memory is a tricky thing. Of course, everyone has their own singular good memories – childhood episodes of playground dates, birthday parties, summer camps. But what about someone who "has a good memory" in the overarching sense, that friend who can always be counted on to reliably recount that hilarious story, be it from last week or several years ago? Jamie, the protagonist of The Great God Pan, by prominent up-and-comer Amy Herzog, admits outright that he doesn't have a good memory in this latter sense, but after receiving some disturbing news from his childhood friend Frank, he has to start digging. Can we force ourselves to re-remember something we thought never happened in the first place?
Set in the beloved and intimate Hyde Park Theatre, Street Corner Arts' production opens with Jamie caught in the middle of an awkward coffee date with Frank, whom we learn Jamie hasn't seen for more than 25 years. Frank comes across as an anxious, troubled type, and David Higgins realistically brings to life this nuanced behavior. The two hardly know each other by now, and Devin Finn's Jamie is visibly vexed at having to take the time to talk with Frank, who reveals plans to press charges against his own father for sexually abusing him as a child. If that weren't heavy enough, Frank informs Jamie of his true intention for the discussion: his father has admitted to abusing Jamie as a child, too. Problem is, Jamie has no recollection of this; in fact, he's certain Frank must be mistaken.
We then learn more of Jamie's life in the present. He lives with his girlfriend of six years, Paige – Molly Fonseca is a force to be reckoned with in the role – and their relationship is at a standstill, blocked by Jamie's difficulty with commitment and intimacy. Paige is establishing her career as a psychologist, and when Jamie tells her about his meeting with Frank (excluding the fact that this may have affected him as well), she describes several characteristics of sexual abuse victims, many of which Jamie possesses. Though Finn displays his talent throughout the show, perhaps my favorite scenes of his are those with Fonseca; the two play off each other well and create a believable relationship.
Dwelling on Frank's news eventually prompts Jamie to visit his parents, played by Addie Alexander and Joe Penrod. We see intimate and thought-provoking exchanges between him and each parent, with some of the most accessible, moving performances in the production given by the three actors in these scenes. Alexander provides much of the play's comic relief early on, but her late-night phone call to her son lamenting mistakes she made as a person and as a parent is open and heartbreaking. Penrod brings a charisma and likability to his role as Doug, all while pleading for Jamie's understanding for past oversights.
Another stellar addition to this cast is Katie Kohler as Joelle, a patient of Paige's who suffers from bulimia. Like Higgins, Kohler plays her complicated and troubled character with an expert naturalism, further contributing to this production's solid success. The Great God Pan provokes as much reflection and emotion for its audience as it does for its protagonist, and Street Corner Arts has provided us with an experience that is stirring and memorable.