Somewhat Recommended** Over the years, I have found Next Theatre Company to be one of the bright stars in our community and was looking forward to tonight’s Midwest premiere of Amy Herzog’s “The Great God Pan” directed by one of my favorites, Kimberly Senior. The story, a 75 minute tale with no intermission, is the story of a young man, Jamie ( solidly played by Brett Schneider) who is summoned to meet an old friend ( one he had not seen for 27 years), where he is informed about what might have taken place some 27 years ago, involving this “friend” ( Matt Hawkins) and his father.
We all have memories of our youth and growing up. We remember some of those vividly and others with a hint of what might have been real and parts that may have been imagined. In this story, Jamie seems to have it all “together”. He has a loving girlfriend, Paige ( the lovely Kristina Valada-Viars) who it appears loves him with all her heart and soul. He has a new job that will afford him the opportunities he has been seeking and loving parents, who he can visit (they are close, but just far enough so that they do not make the trek into the city). From the opening scene where Jamie is told that his boyhood friend was an abused child, by his own father, Jamie begins to doubt that his childhood was as perfect and pristine as he had imagined it.
During the next 70 minutes, we watch him explore his past and discuss the elements that may have an impact on his future. The set for this production, from the very start will make you think you are witness to a “Friends”: episode as it appears to be a coffee shop in some major city, in a neighborhood where people just wander in and out. ) Hats off to Courtney O’Neill on this masterful set which is multi-dimensional). The set also becomes the apartment of Jamie and Paige, Paige’s office, Jamie’s parents house ( parents are played by James Learning and the delightful Jan Radcliff), and a room at a nursing home as Jamie visits with his old baby-sitter, Polly ( crustily played by Margaret Kustermann).. There are two other players in this production, Halle Ecker as Joelle, a client of Paige’s, who’s story is never truly developed enough for me to care, and Benjamin Nichols as the Barista, who very seldom makes any fancy drinks.
The entire play takes place in New York and New Jersey, in different areas, although they reference Highland Park, but of course, it cannot be OUR Highland Park ( this may have been confusing to some patrons). I guess there are elements to this story that could be developed so that when we get to the end, we feel good about the relationships between those characters we have met and what may or may not happen to them. As it is, we do not know for sure and that is bothersome for me. I wanted Jamie to be okay and realize that what may or may not have taken place when he was a child should not have an effect on his future and that if Paige feels the love she evidently feels for him that they can get over this and go forward.
To be honest, I am of the opinion that Herzog, who I admire very much, needs to take a second look at her play and perhaps make some changes in the secondary stories so that we understand what takes place after the 75 minutes have elapsed. If we begin to care about these characters and the play ends abruptly, we are not satisfied and do not feel that we have all that we need to leave the theater with a hope that they will be okay despite the memories that may or may not haunt them. People do fail each other. Some make up for it and atone. Others live with guilt, but in this case, I am not sure that our characters deserve to live with the so called guilt they may think they have.
You can judge for yourself and there will be talkbacks every Sunday after the matinée. “”The Great God Pan” will continue at Next Theatre Company located in Evanston at The Noyes Cultural Center ,927 Noyes Street ( just East of Ridge Avenue) through May 11th with performances as follows:
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Saturday 4 p.m. shows are April 19th,26th, May 3rd and 10th
Tickets range from $30-$45 and can be purchased by calling 847-475-1875 ext 2 or online at www.nexttheatre,org
There is plenty of parking in the area and public transportation is available. The “L” stop is NOYES.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Great God Pan”