For the third and final show of Next Theatre’s 33rd season with the theme of “Secrets, Lies, and Revelations”, I can’t imagine a more appropriate play than Amy Herzog’s “The Great God Pan” directed by Next Artistic Associate Kimberly Senior. This play opens so many doors and leaves one with many puzzles to ponder.
It is always pleasant to visit The Next Theatre with an easy location inside the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston, and adjoining the Noyes street stop on the Evanston "el." I enjoy the easy parking in the lot adjacent to the theatre and at the Evanston Civic Center.
The Great God Pan tells the story of Jamie (Brett Schneider), a journalist who is gaining recognition, his relationship with his beautiful girlfriend, Paige (Kristina Valada-Viars), his involvement with his parents, Cathy (Jan Radcliff) and Doug (James Leaming) a former baby sitter, Polly (Margaret Kustermann) and, Frank (Matt Hawkins), an acquaintance from the past. He has a bad memory, he tells us. Frank suggests that something sinister happened when he was very young but Jamie doesn’t remember. Did this event take place? Is Jamie blocking a traumatic memory?
The set and staging were a very important part of the story. The New York diner is the place where, in 75 minutes, vignettes in which Jamie interacts with each of the characters including the barista (Benjamin Nichols) was energized by continual movement. As Jamie interacts with the various characters, the audience moves through many societal issues; homosexuality, lack of commitment, reliable baby sitting, loss, identity and more.
The acting was superb, the staging unique and very effective, and the topics difficult. It was remarkable that Amy Herzog was able to put so much into a short time, keeping the audience engaged in topics one may prefer not to explore. Herzog said that the play is "not about abuse, it's about memory and self-discovery." Go see this play.
The production team is made up of Courtney O’Neill (set design), Heather Gilbert (lighting design), Chris Kriz (sound design), Samantha Jones (costume design) and Eileen Rozycki (props design).
Next Theatre Company produces socially provocative, artistically adventurous work. It is Next’s vision to become a destination for audiences and artists who share this vision that theatre can promote awareness and provoke change with more power than any other medium of expression.
Surprisingly, Next Theatre serves more than 10,000 patrons annually, including students, elderly and everyone in between. The Next audience includes local Evanstonians as well as Chicago and North Shore residents, and they have come to expect artistic excellence in the pursuit of culturally progressive work.
Every 2 p.m. Sunday matinee during the season is followed by a discussion with the artistic staff and artists involved in the production, as well as special guests familiar with the topic to be discussed.
Playing until May 11th, the performance schedule is Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. There are Saturday 4 p.m. performances April 19, 26, May 3 and May 10th. Tickets are $30 - $45 with subscriber and student discounts available and may be purchased at Next Theatre website or by calling 847-475-1875 x2.
Photos: Michael Brosilow