REVIEW ROUNDUP: Elevator Repair Service's Gatz at American Repertory Theatre
Gatz is conceived as a single six-hour production in which the ensemble brings to life every word of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, no text added and none removed. The piece begins one morning in the low-rent office of a mysterious small business when an employee finds a ragged old copy of the book in the clutter of his desk and starts to read it out loud. And doesn't stop.
The company features Scott Shepherd (The Narrator), Jim Fletcher (Gatsby), Victoria Vazquez (Daisy), Gary Wilmes (Tom), Susie Sokol (Jordan), Sibyl Kempson (Jordan), Laurena Allan (Myrtle), Aaron Landsman (Wilson), Frank Boyd (Wilson), Annie McNamara (Catherine), Kristen Sieh (Catherine), Kate Scelsa (Lucille), Vin Knight (Chester), Mike Iveson (Klipspringer), Ben Williams (Michaelis), and Ross Fletcher (Henry C. Gatz).
The ambitious undertaking is receiving considerable praise from critics, as is the central performance from Shepherd.
Among the reviews are:
'The Great Gatsby' meets 'The Office'
"The achievement of "Gatz' is to reimagine and reanimate 'Gatsby,' forcing us to consider it afresh by thrusting it into a world that could not be more different from Fitzgerald's glittering galaxy, all while remaining faithful to the text.
Actually, 'faithful' massively understates the case. Every single word of 'Gatsby' is either read or performed onstage. We get to luxuriate in Fitzgerald's jeweled prose while seeing his characters and ideas brought to life. It is an idea both radical and simple. And it works."
"At the center of 'Gatz' is Scott Shepherd, who plays that unnamed employee who, as he reads, slowly assumes the identity of Nick Carraway. There can be few actors in the history of the theater who have ever spoken as many words onstage as Shepherd does in 'Gatz' (and he puts the book down and works from memory for the last dozen pages or so). Beyond that feat of vocal endurance, Shepherd makes Nick the moral compass of 'Gatz' and a fully realized character in his own right, even while forced to append "he said' and "she said' to the spoken dialogue of the others."
The Great 'Gatz': Play has audience hanging on Fitzgerald's every word
"This seven-hour, two-part oratorio of a production is, like the best novels, meticulous and addictive. Presenting every word of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby,' it brings the usually solitary pleasure of reading to jolting life."
"Something this ambitious could easily go horribly wrong, but director John Collins and his cast are engrossing and precise enough to spin it into pure gold. The lion's share of the credit goes to Shepherd, whose narrative stamina is nothing short of astounding. He reads the book aloud, cover to cover, in a gorgeous and subdued Midwestern drawl. No voice but his would have quite the power to bring Fitzgerald's legendary, descriptive passages to elegant life."
Diamonds in the rough
"The power of the novel is exerted at the same time that we see unglamorous nowhere people captivated by art yet ultimately unable to escape -- any more than Gatsby can -- the dreary confines of their originative milieu. We may not get jazz orchestras playing on the sloping lawns of lit-up Long Island mansions or languid lovelies in floating white dresses. But we do get, read aloud, every rueful, gorgeous phrase Fitzgerald wrote, as well as a deliberately lackluster mirror of some of his themes."
'Gatz' is cover-to-cover reading of Fitzgerald opus
"With nary a recognizable star in sight, Scott Shepherd makes us believe in the urgency of Carraway, protecting his friend; Victoria Vazquez wheedles us into loving and hating Daisy; Gary Wilmes embodies the macho, slightly bigoted, Tom; with Jim Fletcher dominating the scene as the seething but supremely controlled Gatsby. [...] This nondescript-looking band of actors has unleashed a magic power imbedded in the most compelling of theatrical endeavors. 'Gatz' helps us understand Fitzgerald's discovery that there is fool's gold in the American dream."