Aug 05, 2020
Benjamin Garcia and Steven Weatherbee in rehearsal (Elizabeth Payne / Courtesy of University Theater)

‘The Great God Plan’ recounts distorted memories of abuse

How well do we really remember the past? Do we filter pleasant and unpleasant memories in different ways?

“Memory runs murky” is the theme of “The Great God Plan,” the play that opened at Fresno State’s John Wright Theater on March 24.

Written by American playwright Amy Herzog in 2010, the play focuses on a 32-year-old journalist, Jamie, and his encounter with his childhood friend, Frank.

During their meeting Frank, played by Benjamin Garcia, opens up to Jamie, played by Steven Weatherbee, and tells him that he is suing his father for sexual abuse. After, Frank asks Jamie if he has any information about possible abuse from his father toward other children, including Jamie. From then on, the play centers on Jamie and the turmoil he faces in his life on whether or not he was also abused.

To me, [the play is] not about abuse, it’s about memory and self-discovery,” Herzog said in an interview with the U.S. magazine Playbill.

The issue of memory being unreliable is strung throughout all of the characters in the work. Using memory as a main theme allows for there to be a wide variety of diverse characters and topics which are able to be all tied together through the unifying theme.

“I thought that in particular topics concerning violence or sex, there wasn’t any gratuitous content,” said Aaron Pierce, a fourth-year theater major. “It was presented in a way where you understood the topic and you took away what the situation was, but you weren’t inundated with information.”

The relationships between the characters, such as Jamie and his mother Cathy, stuck with audience members for how realistically they portrayed relationships between parents and their children.

Jana Price, a costume shop assistant and third-year theater arts major, said that what resonated with her was, “the relationship between the son and his parents, and how it’s hard to talk about these things and that parents have issues that we aren’t able to talk about. And when you get older and you hear about them and you didn’t know they were happening, it’s just like real life.”

The actors all had to play distinct characters with very realistic problems. Their unique roles coupled with the serious topic, pushed them to work harder for the production.

“I remember in high school I used to play a lot of [elderly] characters, and this one was like the first one that required for me to do intense work because this woman had dementia and you just can’t play what you think,” said Arium Andrews, a second-year theater major who played Polly.

Other actors said they were thankful for Kathleen McKinley’s direction, which pushed them to achieve more for the play.

“I knew going into this that she would push me,” said Weatherbee, a third-year theater arts major with an acting emphasis. “Whatever my training is up to this point, that wouldn’t be enough for her, and I’m very happy that she’s continued to push me and really forced me in the best way to grow as an actor and as playing the part of Jamie.”

“The Great God Plan” will show at the John Wright Theater through April 1.


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