A Glam-free Gatsby


There’s an elusiveness to Jay Gatsby, the figure who haunts F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best-loved work. Gatsby is a charismatic millionaire who blends into the background at his own lavish parties. He is glamorous and yet pathetic, self-inventing but helpless. His smile radiates “eternal reassurance,” the book tells us, and his mind engenders and encompasses “a universe of ineffable gaudiness.” What actor, what director, could truly capture a character like that?

Probably none—and therein lies the brilliance of Gatz, the six-and-a-half-hour dramatization of The Great Gatsby by New York’s edgy theater company Elevator Repair Service. In mounting this production, which includes every single word of Fitzgerald’s text, and which is directed by John Collins, the troupe doesn’t aim to channel, or even approximate, the 1925 novel. Instead, the show turns a series of oddball contemporary images into a sounding board that resonates with the novel’s observations and with our own reactions to them.

In performance at New York’s Public Theater through May 13 (it will visit London in June and July), Gatz unfurls on a set that...

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About the Author

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.