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December 21, 2012

TT: Further up the road

In today's Wall Street Journal drama column I review the off-Broadway premiere of Amy Herzog's The Great God Pan and a Boston remounting of David Cromer's production of Our Town. Here's an excerpt.

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Few things in theater are more exciting than watching a talented young artist come into her own. That's what has been happening to Amy Herzog. In "After the Revolution," the story of a family of red-diaper leftists, and "4000 Miles," its sequel, Ms. Herzog showed herself to be possessed of a rare gift: the ability to write witty, incisive studies of people in whom the personal has collided with the political to potentially devastating effect. What is most striking about those two plays is that they are informed by ideology without being driven by it: Their tone is as light as their subject matter is dark. Much the same can be said of "The Great God Pan," Ms. Herzog's new play, which is not as effective as its predecessors but still leaves no doubt of her gifts.

tggp3.jpg__960x480_q85_crop_upscale.jpg"The Great God Pan" is "about" recovered memory in the same way that "After the Revolution" and "4000 Miles" are "about" Communism: Its nominal subject is a pretext for the exploration of the personalities of its characters. Jamie (Jeremy Strong), the protagonist of "The Great God Pan," is a pleasant but emotionally inhibited young journalist whose glassy surface is shattered when he discovers more or less simultaneously that (A) he may have been molested as a child and (B) Paige (Sarah Goldberg), his longtime girlfriend, is pregnant....

It's a worthy premise, but Ms. Herzog doesn't quite manage to bring it off. Not only does "The Great God Pan" lack suppleness--the plot feels schematic--but the play's principal characters are drawn so closely to their new-class type as to suggest a satirical intent that is at odds with the play's emotional weight....

David Cromer's universally acclaimed production of "Our Town" originated in Chicago in 2008, ran for more than 600 performances Off Broadway, then transferred successfully to Los Angeles. Now it has been remounted by Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, with Mr. Cromer repeating his coolly ironic performance as the Stage Manager. I caught it in New York and was stunned--no lesser word is strong enough--by the potency with which Mr. Cromer re-envisioned Thornton Wilder's 1938 masterpiece about life in a small New Hampshire town, dressing his cast in street clothes and encouraging them to act with casual, desentimentalizing directness. You can't help but wonder whether so overwhelming a show can stand up to repeat viewings, so I decided to drive up to Boston and see for myself. The answer is decidedly in the affirmative....

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Read the whole thing here.

A trailer for The Great God Pan:

Posted December 21, 2012 12:00 AM

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