Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Great God Pan
Cinnabar Theater
Review by Jeanie K. Smith | Season Schedule

Also see Jeanie's review of The Addams Family and Patrick's reviews of Fairview and Miss Saigon

Nick Sholley and Aaron Wilton
Photo by Victoria Von Thal
Jamie seems to have it all—a beautiful girlfriend, a promising career in journalism, a comfortable, stylish life—until he's contacted by a childhood friend he hasn't seen in 25 years, who shares unsettling news. Frank has decided to prosecute his father for the sexual abuse inflicted on him as a child—disturbing enough, but he also wonders if Jamie can corroborate his story. Thus begins the timely and compelling play by Amy Herzog, currently being given a sensitive and stunning production at Cinnabar Theater.

Jamie (Aaron Wilton) reels from this meeting with Frank (Nick Sholley), and returns home to his girlfriend of six years, Paige (Taylor Diffenderfer), to share the encounter. What can he say about Frank's revelation when he remembers absolutely nothing other than a few random snippets, including recollections of their old babysitter Polly (Kate Brickley). Like faded snapshots with no names on the back, these random images don't add up to much for Jamie, but something impels him forward, something urges him on in a quest to connect the dots, to ... what? Be sure? Remember something he doesn't remember? Recall history for certain? Is it even possible?

Herzog weaves two-person scenes over 85 minutes into an intriguing inquiry into the vagaries of memory, but more so into the ripple effect of childhood sexual abuse, in the victim's life and adult world. The play handles delicate subjects with a thoughtful, subtle approach, letting information surface gradually, serving up more questions than answers. Jamie tries to casually question his parents, Cathy (Susan Gundunas) and Doug (Richard Pallaziol), which is more like dropping a grenade in their peace of mind. He visits Polly, whose growing dementia complicates matters of memory.

Jamie and Paige have their own issues—or, are those problems somehow related? Paige's social work practice includes a client with anorexia (Joelle, played with remarkable authenticity by Carly Van Liere). Knowing Herzog, these scenes are no accident, adding another layer of examination. Might it have to do with evidence that over 50% of patients with eating disorders report childhood sexual abuse?

This could be dark and dreary, but director Taylor Korobow's production brings out excellent performances from her cast, and, while thoughtful, never feels slow. The brilliant set and lighting design by Jon Tracy combined with haunting sound design by Kristopher Bererra become like another character in the play, rotating perspective, stranding us in the dark woods of shadowy memory, illuminating shifting ground and trees that won't remain in place. It's a terrific concept as backdrop for a talented ensemble of actors.

Wilton carries the play as Jamie, working his way through difficult transitions and conflicting emotions with utter believability. He's aided by a fine cast, all bringing their characters to life with a kind of fierce faithfulness, a determination to avoid false notes. Their pauses speak volumes, their hesitations measure deliberation and pain. Yet they also know exactly how to deliver the bits of comic relief Herzog allows.

It's a superb production from start to finish, sure to generate appreciation for the show itself, but also deep reflection on an issue currently in the national newscape. That Herzog wrote the play in 2012, and that Cinnabar presciently included it in the current season is rather remarkable; it couldn't be more timely.

The Great God Pan, through October 28, 2018, at Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd., Petaluma CA. Tickets $15.00-$30.00 can be purchased online at or by phone at 707-763-8920