Posted in Amy Herzog, dark drama, Gretchen Mol, Keith Nobbs, The Good Mother

If Memory Serves… "The Good Mother" and "The Great God Pan"

If “the past is prologue,” what follows for those who are stuck in the past?

In their latest work, playwrights Amy Herzog and Francine Volpe focus on protagonists who are diminished by their past.

In Volpe’s “The Good Mother,” at the New Group in the Acorn theater through December 22nd, personal history sets up a pattern of self-destruction and delusion.  Larissa (Gretchen Mol) is held back by an infantile crush on her teen counsellor, Joel (Mark Blum.) Larissa exerts her considerable allure to entangle the men in her life in webs of intrigue.

Mark Blum as Joel and Gretchen Mol as Larissa in “The Good Mother.”  Photo by Monique Carboni.

Memory is a double-edged sword of nostalgia and dread in Herzog’s “The Great God Pan,” at Playwrights Horizons mainstage through  Januaray 6, 2013. It may be that Jamie (Jeremy Strong) is stymied by suppressed memories. Jamie has a middling career. He is not fully committed in his long-term relationship with Paige (Sarah Goldberg.) His mother, Cathy (Becky Ann Baker) worries that is not happy. Jamie is stumbling along with his life when he reunites with a boyhood friend, Frank (Keith Nobbs).Frank’s unwelcome revelations make Jamie and his father, Doug (Peter Friedman) uneasy.

Jeremy Strong as Jamie with Sarah Goldberg as Paige in “The Great God Pan.” Photo by Joan Marcus.
Keith Nobbs cuts a splendidly fierce goth-like figure. His Frank is straightforward and secure. Jeremy Strong’s Jamie is appropriately listless and uncertain.
Keith Nobbs as Frank and Jeremy Strong as Jamie  in “The Great God Pan.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

The pathologically self-absorbed Larissa in “The Good Mother,” on the other hand, willfully provokes a series of incidents that unsettle her peace and comfort. She victimizes Angus (Eric Nelsen), Joel’s troubled son, and leaves him bewildered. After a one-night stand, she calls upon the protective and equally befuddled Jonathan (Darren Goldstein) and then dismisses him.
Gretchen Mol as Larissa with Darren Goldstein as Jonathan in “The Good Mother.” Photo by Monique Carboni.

Larissa is a temptress and a user. She doesn’t seem to care that her schemes, like her troubled past, all seem to backfire. It’s easy to see her triumphant smirk from ten rows back as she draws in the long-ago jilted Buddy (Alfredo Narciso.)

Fans of HBOs Boardwalk Empire will be happy to again see Gretchen Mol in person. She acquits herself brilliantly in this psychological thriller.
The many lingering questions Amy Herzog leaves unanswered in “The Great God Pan” are part of its dramatic power. Carolyn Cantor directs the superb cast in even and compelling performances. Volpe’s “The Good Mother,” under Scott Elliot’s direction is satisfyingly complex. 
Larissa and Jamie are both hampered by their childhoods, and haunted by their pasts.
For more information about “The Good Mother,” visit To learn more about “The Great God Pan,” go to