treet Corner Arts has only been around for a few years now, but they have made an amazing statement in the meantime. They’ve brought in some of Austin’s best actors and gave them challenging, unique scripts, always bringing about some of the year’s best plays. With Amy Herzog’s “The Great God Pan”, they bring Austin the Texas premier of a piece of sensitivity and weight, which brings out something special in each of its skilled actors.
“The Great God Pan” shows what happens when secrets from our pasts come in contact with our current lives. We follow young journalist Jamie, played with affective sensitivity by Devin Finn, who has a charming girlfriend, loving parents, and a new, well-paying job, which all begin to ebb and change when a figure from his past, the meek actor Frank, returns to his life, bringing a startling revelation from their childhood. We watch, almost in real time, the ramifications of these revelations, and its against this emotional backdrop that we find much of the rich tension of the play.
When watching “The Great God Pan”, there’s almost a sense of voyeurism that occurs. The performances are so naturalistic, and the action flows so gracefully, that one feels like they’re sitting in the living rooms of strangers, listening to conversations that we were never meant to hear. Part of this stems from the clear quality of Amy Herzog’s writing, which seems to be pulled straight from the street, and much of it stems from the actors themselves, who carry this text without a hint of over-acting, keeping the action grounded and earthly. It can, at times, be a double-edged sword, as this realistic feel can affect the dramatic effectiveness of certain scenes, but it also helps support a sense of emotive clarity, helping us to relate to the many characters who call this world home.
Addie Alexander perhaps performs best in the realistic style as Jamie’ mom Cath,, letting her lightness and sarcasm play well against the dourness that lives within so much of the play. Her physicality and cadence always feels so incredibly natural that it lights up the stage, especially when she’s joined by Joe Penrod, an actor who bring amazing charisma to his role as Doug. Her emotions never feel tacked on or acted, but instead seem to grow organically from the action around her, making them feel all the more realistic.
Molly Fonseca attacks every role she takes with an incredible intensity, and “Great God Pan” is no different. This isn’t to mean that she’s ever over-emotional, or overwhelming, but that, with whatever role she takes on, she live in it with such passion that you can’t help but be glued to the edge of your chair. As Paige, she plays the role often with an awkward smile, where, even at her happiest, there’s a sadness behind her eyes. Her scenes with Katie Kohler, who brings her unique sensitivity to her short time on stage as bulimic young adult Joelle, show Fonseca going through an intense series of emotions in just a few moments, showing her amazing range and control all at once.
“The Great God Pan’s” realistic nature helps its poignancy hit with more power, and its actors are able to portray this with sensitivity and skill. It’s a small play, full of personal and idealistic complications, but it’s also incredibly powerful, and another shining jewel in Street Corner Arts’ crown.
“The Great God Pan” is playing at Hyde Park Theatre through April 18th. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit their website at streetcornerarts.org.
Photo Courtesy of Crystal Vassef