Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Great God Pan

The Great God Pan
By Amy Herzog
Directed by Carolyn Cantor
Playwrights Horizons

What's It About?
The world premiere of the newest play by Amy Herzog (4,000 Miles, Belleville) explores possible sexual abuse of a character when he was a child. Jamie (Jeremy Strong) is leading what he thinks is a happy life with a new job as a writer at a magazine and terrific girlfriend, Paige (Sarah Goldberg) until a reunion with childhood friend, Frank, (Keith Nobbs), that looses his troubles into the world. Frank was the strange kid who always had tried to tag along with him. Jaime doesn't have a lot of memories their childhood together, but he obviously is uncomfortable in the present with Frank, who is tattooed, a homosexual and who has served time in prison. His discomfort goes to a new level when Frank explains that he is bringing charges against his father, a Sunday school teacher, who sexually abused him when he was a boy. The man also has admitted that the abuse might ave included Jaime and Frank wants him to join the lawsuit. Jamie denies that he was one of victims, but counselor Paige's description of symptoms of adults repressing abuse seems to fit him and he starts to wonder.

His mom, Cathy (Becky Ann Baker), seems unsurprised by the revelation that Frank's father may have been a pedophile and also oddly unmoved. Jaime's dad, Doug (Peter Friedman) has a different reaction, however, and tries to help his son. Jamie's old babysitter Polly (Joyce Van Patten), old and suffering from memory loss, doesn't provide too many answers, but the childhood memories Jamie does have, seem to revolve around her "scratchy" couch and trips down to the creek where she would recite the poem The Great God Pan. One trip was traumatic, but he can't remember why.

What are the Highlights:
Tautly directed, Strong gives a gripping performance of a man desperately at odds with himself -- the journalist, trying to remain detached as he collects information, and a man whose emotions have been shattered. At one point, when Paige confronts him about the future of their relationship and his inability to embrace her unexpected pregnancy, one look at Strong tells you every emotion the character is fighting and that he is losing the battle. A brilliant stage moment. The set (Mark Wendland, design) also helps tell the story -- green woods surround the action in multiple dimensions, almost like the deeply buried memory of those woods by the creek.

What are the Lowlights?
Herzog leaves a lot of questions unanswered (the play is brief -- just 85 minutes). There is a subplot involving Paige's counseling sessions with a bulimic teen, Joelle (Erin Wilhelm), that seems undeveloped and unconnected to the rest of the plot except for the fact that she's exhibiting symptoms of deeper hidden issues, too, and Paige seems as unable to help her as she is Jaime.

More information:
The Great God Pan is extended  Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC, through Jan. 13. Tickets:

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexuality
-- Abortion

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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