The Great God Pan at WildClaw Theatre Company: Theater review
Nineteenth-century Welsh author Arthur Machen has been cited as an influence by suspense and horror writers from H.P. Lovecraft to Stephen King, and thus his 1894 novella The Great God Pan makes a fitting debut for WildClaw, a company devoted to the horror genre. But Sherman’s new play is more accurately described as inspired by Machen’s work than adapted from it. While Sherman has compressed the number of major characters, he’s taken a number of liberties with the story, liberally expanding upon Machen’s themes (and expanding a brief work of prose into a nearly three-hour play).
Sherman retains Machen’s suspenseful, non-linear storytelling, making his play a bit like a sliding-tile puzzle; we hesitate to give too much away. Suffice it to say that the basic plot elements—a damaged young girl, the intersection between the unseen world of the gods and our own, a woman wreaking havoc in London society—remain the same, but Sherman creates from Machen’s work a larger exploration of the nature of evil, and the divide between nature itself and our “civilized” society.
There’s strong, nuanced character work from the principals (including Lily Mojekwu, Tom Hickey and an astonishing mute performance by Michaela Petro), and the multiply-cast ensemble impresses; the unapologetically low-budget, high-gore production is reminiscent of classic Defiant Theatre stuff. Sherman’s telegraphed climax could be accused of invoking what’s known on the Internet as Godwin’s Law (Google it after you see the show), but regardless: If this is the WildClaw standard for horror, we’ll gladly be horrified again.