Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gatz ***

When a production receives the lavish praise that the staged reading cum story theater piece Gatz by Elevator Repair Service now at the Public Theater has garnered, there is a danger of high expectations leading to disappointment. By and large, this did not happen for me. The underlying concept is that an office worker whose computer won't start runs across a paperback copy of Fitzgerald's masterpiece and begins reading it aloud. Through a very clever transition, his office mates are gradually drawn in and assume the roles of characters in the book. Once this transformation has been accomplished, I found the subsequent office routines we see (signing papers, opening mail, filing) a bit intrusive. Some of the comedy was slapstick and coarse, amusing but not really supported by the text. These are minor quibbles though and did not seriously diminish my enjoyment. The cast is uniformly strong and all their characterizations are vivid, but I must single out Scott Shepherd for his yeoman service as Nick, the reader/narrator. Excellent sound and lighting design contribute greatly to establishing the settings. I won't say that I was enthralled every moment of its 6 1/2 hours (plus intermissions), but I left happy that I had experienced The Great Gatsby in this unique form. Caution: Dress warmly -- the theater was so cold that people had to keep their coats on during the first half.

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