The Great God Pan
by Amy Herzog
directed by Carolyn Cantor
originally produced at Playwrights Horizons,
New York, NY.
November 1, 2012
through December 1, 2012
(The Great God Pan is published by TCG Books.)
Jamie’s life in Brooklyn seems just fine: a beautiful girlfriend, a budding journalism career, and parents who live just far enough away. But when a possible childhood trauma comes to light, his life is thrown into a tailspin. Unsettling and deeply compassionate, The Great God Pan tells the intimate tale of what is lost and won when a hidden truth is unloosed into the world.
It’s hard to believe that it has only been sixteen months since our acclaimed production of Amy Herzog’s After the Revolution. Since that time, she has become one of the country’s hottest young playwrights, with a great production of her play, 4000 Miles at LCT3, which was remounted at Lincoln Center’s Newhouse Theater. Her play Belleville received an equally compelling production at Yale Rep, which will be brought to New York City by New York Theater Workshop sometime after January 2013. So it thrills me to reunite Amy with her After the Revolution director, Carolyn Cantor, for the exciting World Premiere of The Great God Pan, which Playwrights Horizons will produce in fall 2012.
In the broadest terms, The Great God Pan deals with the subject of child abuse. An almost forgotten childhood friend shows up unexpectedly to tell Jamie that he is bringing charges against his own father for sexually molesting him as a child. Then he asks Jamie if he remembers anything happening to him. Jamie says no, and bids him an awkward goodbye. But in subsequent scenes with his girlfriend Paige, his mother, father, and former babysitter, now in a nursing home, he unwillingly begins to grapple with the probability that his difficulties in sustaining relationships may in fact stem from a deeper cause.
Amy’s tightly focused yet expansive worldview bears no apparent interest in any sensationalist or hyper-topical aspects of the story. The title stems from a song Jamie’s babysitter would sing to him on outings to a swimming hole, but it also sets the larger metaphorical frame of the play. Jamie is not just an abuse victim. The song reference seems to say that great, almost mythic natural forces have acted upon him and something is going to be unloosed in him. His hidden wounds become almost a metaphor for the wounds that lurk within all of us. The structure of the play works towards this enlarged view as well. The nuanced authenticity of Amy’s realism never feels wall-bound or insular. She always finds room in her narratives to bring unexpected characters into it. For example, as we are drawn into the impact Jamie’s struggles have on Paige, we meet Joelle, a bulimic teenager that Paige counsels. The scenes are remarkably compelling not just because of what they reveal about Paige, but also because of how quickly and deeply we come to understand Joelle, and how this understanding expands the overall thematic scope of the play. In the end, we see how the great god Pan has left his mark on every character in the play. The uncaging of his secrets may leave the fragile structures of Jamie’s life assumptions in ruins, but we also come to believe in the strength that he is beginning to develop by wrestling with this dark angel.
Thanks to the Edgerton Foundation’s New American Plays award, Playwrights Horizons will be able to provide the creative team of The Great God Pan with an extra week of rehearsal. This extra week will allow the playwright, director and cast to carefully explore the depths of this sensitive, delicate play.
Director: Carolyn Cantor
Set Design: Mark Wendland
Lighting Design: Japhy Weidman
Sound Design: Darron West
Costume Design: Kaye Voyce
Cast: Starring Becky Ann Baker, Peter Friedman, Sarah Goldberg, Keith Nobbs, Joyce Van Patten, and Erin Wilhelmi