There is nothing new under the sun, yet a truly excellent playwright can make a familiar story new and vivid and surprising and heartbreaking. And Amy Herzog is a truly excellent playwright, as shown by her new and vivid and surprising and heartbreaking play, The Great God Pan. Focusing on such well-worn themes/topics as childhood abuse, the fragility of relationships, whether to have children, and the power of denial, Herzog compassionately depicts the cost of being human and how a seemingly happy life may turn out to be built on shaky foundations. She also shows how easily we can all misunderstand one another. And how being honest is not an easy goal. And she does this all amazingly economically--it's a short play.
(Note: although I saw an early-ish preview, I am reviewing this now because I paid for my ticket and because I want to give you as much opportunity as possible to get tickets!)
Jamie's career as a writer is moving along. He has a wonderful girlfriend, Paige, and odd but loving parents. His life is not perfect, but it is good. And then his girlfriend gets pregnant, and he is faced with his ambivalence about the future. Also, he has coffee with an old friend--and suddenly he has to reevaluate his entire life. Paige too has to deal with life-changing decisions and realizations, and must also face the limits of her ability to help people as a social worker.
The Great God Pan has seven characters, which is not a small cast in these financially tight days. The story could have been told with fewer people, but much would have been lost. The play has an airiness, an ability to breathe, that gives it more humanity than a tightly measured three-person play might have had. It's a sad and beautiful play, with no heroes or villains--just painfully human humans.
Herzog has been gifted with an excellent director, Carolyn Cantor, and a superb cast. In particular, Jeremy Strong depicts Jamie's unraveling subtlety yet vividly; you can almost see him age in the short time period of the play. The rest of the wonderful cast comprises Keith Nobbs, Sarah Goldberg, Becky Ann Baker, Peter Friedman, Erin Wilmhelmi, and Joyce Van Patten.
As I write this, it has been announced that Herzog won the New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award for her play, After the Revolution. I wish I could go back in time and see it.
(member ticket; first row audience left)