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'Gatz' Great: Theater at its finest

gatz

gatz Photo Credit: handout

Gatz
4 stars

“Gatz” — an unabridged, line-by-line reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” performed by 13 actors for 81/2 hours with intermissions and a dinner break — sounds avant-garde but is actually theater at its simplest and purest level.

Since it was first published in 1925, “The Great Gatsby” has been unsuccessfully adapted into films, plays and even an opera which lack the descriptive bite and atmosphere inherent in Fitzgerald’s words.

The language takes on extended meaning and nuance when read aloud. However, “Gatz” offers more than just an audio book.

Elevator Repair Service’s unique production begins in an office where a lone worker, played by Scott Shepherd, unexpectedly finds a paperback copy of the novel in a Rolodex. Without much else to do, he starts to read aloud.

After initially reciting the text in a flat voice, Shepherd becomes engaged and begins to identify with its narrator Nick Carraway.

Soon, the novel quietly merges into Shepherd’s dreary work environment.

Given the production’s length, there are bound to be a few dry spots. But for the most part, John Collins’ brilliant production fully and persuasively immerses the spectator into the world of Jay Gatsby.

If you go: “Gatz," At the Public Theater through Nov. 28, 425 Lafayette St., 212-967-7555, publictheater.org.

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