The brilliance of the Elevator Repair Service’s production of GATZ– and it is a brilliant piece of theater- lies in its subtleties. The subtle ways the ensemble of actors exposes the humor in the story; the ways that Scott Shepherd, as narrator, highlights Fitzgerald’s magnificent language; the ways that the actors melt into the characters and the plot; even the subtle ways that the lighting and sound design lend a richness to the worlds being suggested onstage. All brilliant.
The production is seeing a return engagement at the Public Theater through May 13th, and as a member of the Public Theater staff, you may think I’m biased. I promise I’m not; this is Elevator Repair Service’s show, after all, which we have the honor of presenting for the second time. GATZ is a unique theatrical experience, in part because, yes, it runs for over six hours. It begins as a story read aloud, straight from the worn book of The Great Gatsby which rarely leaves Shepherd’s hands, and almost imperceptibly morphs into an elaborate retelling of this, one of the most celebrated American novels. Aside from occasional mumbles, all of the lines in the play are the words from the page. The movement of the actors onstage and the pieces of dialogue they speak is carefully composed; nothing is taken for granted, nothing is arbitrary. The scrupulous attention paid to the details is stunning.
With their notorious reinterpretations of classic literature, Elevator Repair Service have proven adept at enhancing an author’s original work, be it Hemingway, Faulkner or Fitzgerald, without compromising any of its splendid nature. The conceit of GATZ allows the audience, even encourages them, to use their imagination to create the world of the story; to color inside the lines that have been drawn so vividly. This is The Great Gatsby like never before (and likely never again), and it is truly thrilling to behold.
Video courtesy of The Public Theater.