GATZ is no joke. With a running time of about 8 hours, seeing this show is a real commitment. You don’t half-ass this. Or, you can half-ass this, but then, why even bother in the first place?
I went on an exhausted Friday afternoon after one of the longest weeks I can ever remember living, and honestly, I was a bit concerned. Eight hours of theater seemed daunting; no matter how excited I’d once been to see this show. Sure, GATZ pushed a shit-load of my nerd buttons at once—theater lover, English & American Literature major, and reader response criticism enthusiast, to name a few—but what if I just couldn’t make it? Those tickets were NOT cheap. What if I fell asleep?
Except, in the end, I was worried about nothing. I didn’t fall asleep. Instead, I just fell in love. With everything.
And I mean everything. From the novel itself, right on down to the hilarious pink suit Gatsby— played by Jim Fletcher—wore with such a serious air. I fell in love with Scott Shepherd (hell yeah, redheads!) and his magnificent speaking voice—somehow both soothing and engaging at once. And I fell in love with Gary Wilmes and his compelling transformation from silent background character to brutish physical presence as Tom Buchanan. But most of all, I fell in love with books again. And reading, and theater, and the way art can become something so big and real and palpable in every aspect of your life, even when it begins as only words on a page or a performance before your eyes.
GATZ asks for a commitment from you as an audience member, which is perhaps as much a commentary on the act of theater or the life of a book, as it is anything else. But it pays you back in spades with the kind of rich enjoyment that seems almost impossible, given the circumstances. Perhaps that is what is most brave about GATZ. In this Web 2.0 generation of instant everything, it risks being a colossal waste of both your valuable time and your hard earned money. You risk those things, too, when you walk into the Public’s Martinson Theater. And that makes the reward so much sweeter at the end of the long, long night.
Photo: Joan Marcus