The Select (The Sun Also Rises)
Elevator Repair Service, the avant-garde theater company best known for reciting the texts of famous novels, became the toast of Off-Broadway last year with “Gatz,” a six-and-a-half-hour, unabridged and brilliant presentation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”
“The Select,” the troupe’s adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises,” is only three and a half hours long, because director John Collins has trimmed much of the original text. Unfortunately, it feels considerably longer than “Gatz” due to a lack of narrative drive.
“The Sun Also Rises” established Hemingway as a major literary voice and is considered an essential portrait of the post-World War I “Lost Generation.” It is narrated by Jake Barnes, an American journalist living in Paris whose war injury has left him impotent.
Jake and his pal, Robert Cohn, do little in Paris besides passively travel from barroom to barroom and lust over Lady Brett Ashley, who loves Jake but cannot see past his sexual inability. Soon enough, the group travels to Spain, where Brett has a fling with a 19-year-old bullfighter.
Collins’ production is set entirely around a bar littered with wine and liquor bottles, although lighting changes are used to suggest multiple locations and the cast wears contemporary clothing.
Mike Iveson is unexpectedly upbeat as the detached Jake, perhaps in order to engage the audience’s attention as a narrator. As the show begins, he gleefully gives us the gossip on his pals.
The production ultimately fails because “The Sun Also Rises” is too aimless and dramatically inert to succeed onstage. The group’s trademark silliness, which includes jolting sound effects and crazy dance sequences, cannot disguise that fact.
Instead of enjoying “The Sun Also Rises” at your own pace, “The Select” tediously force-feeds it to you.