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The pretty great Gatsby
Click here to read more Interrobang articles written by Kirsten Rosenkrantz
Published: Friday, February 24th, 2012
It was a night of grand debuts on Friday, February 17 at the Grand Theatre. In fact, the majority of the cast of The Great Gatsby was performing at the Grand for the first time, including leads Greg Gale as Nick Carraway, Christine Horne as Daisy Buchanan and Mike Shara as Jay Gatsby.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic The Great Gatsby is a staple on the bookshelves of many fiction fans. The story is one we’re all familiar with; it’s a tale that speaks to its generation while resonating with society nearly 100 years later. The Great Gatsby is ultimately a love story, though it serves as a commentary on the entitlement of wealth and the consequences of dishonesty and deceit.
Award-winning Playwright and Director Simon Levy adapted this classic story for the stage, and it opened at the Grand Theatre on February 17.
The entire play had an air of magic about it, echoing the atmosphere of one of Gatsby’s lavish parties. The music, costumes and sets were awe-inspiring. Any vintage fashion-lover would certainly swoon over the dresses, hats and shoes worn by Daisy and her friend Jordan Baker.
Massive flowing curtains drifted across the stage hiding each set change and even occasionally acting as the backdrop to certain scenes. The sets, though minimal, acted as distinct markers for each location: a set of columns and party lanterns represented Gatsby’s house, an ornate chaise lounge signified the Buchanan house, the faded optometrist billboard connoted Wilson’s gas station and, of course, the distant green lantern glowed at the end of Daisy’s dock, visible from Gatsby’s mansion. The performers in this production of The Great Gatsby played their roles to varying degrees of success.
Jordan Baker, played by Haley McGee, was a clear highlight in the show. McGee embodied Baker, a confident and cynical woman. McGee delivered some of the biggest laughs of the night with her perfectly timed snide comments.
Jeffrey Wetsch played Daisy Buchanan’s husband, Tom, an arrogant and unfaithful man who carries out an affair with Myrtle Wilson, local gas station owner George Wilson’s wife. Wetsch’s portrayal of Tom was loathsome. Everything he did, from the moment he broke Myrtle’s nose for repeatedly saying Daisy’s name, to the moment he convinced George that Gatsby is the one who ran over and killed Myrtle, made the audience hate this character.
Myrtle, played by Jane Spence, and George, played by Shane Carty, both stayed very true to the characters in the novel, perfectly portraying their vitality and weakness, respectively. The brief appearance made by Meyer Wolfsheim, Gatsby’s friend, played by Nigel Hamer, was one of the funniest moments of the whole play. His scene with Nick was incredibly natural and dynamic, and was too brief an interaction.
Being central to the story, the character of Daisy Buchanan is a large role to take on. Even in the forthcoming film, Baz Lurhmann auditioned eight established actresses to take on this role, including Amanda Seyfried, Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightly, before finally settling on Carey Mulligan.
Daisy is the object of Gatsby’s obsessive love and the embodiment of entitlement. Christine Horne played Daisy in this production and managed to capture her sweetness and charm. The moments shared between Horne and Shara as Daisy and Gatsby were at times endearing, playful and even heartbreaking.
Both Shara and Horne, however, lacked some of the depth their characters possess. Perhaps it is a result of the adaptation or the direction, but neither performer seemed to build tension before the truth of their past relationship in unveiled. In the novel, Gatsby’s character development is a gradual process. He is shrouded in mystery and all that’s known of him is known through rumours. It was as though the adaptation could have taken more time to build up Gatsby before his character opens up to Nick Carraway. There also wasn’t a fully developed sense of how shallow, spoiled and complex Daisy Buchanan actually is. Gatsby builds her up so much in his mind that he is left disillusioned, trying to capture a dream. In this adaptation, not enough time is spent on her development; the audience should be swept up in her façade, mirroring the experience of Gatsby.
The glue that holds the entire story together is Nick Carraway, who serves as the narrative voice of Fitzgerald himself throughout the novel. Gale was convincing as Nick, and this casting choice was ideal. His portrayal was endearing as he took the audience along with him on his journey. He played the role with an appropriate level of naiveté and sincerity that is vital to Nick’s experiences.
One of the best thought-out elements of this play was Nick’s onstage costume changes. Minor elements, a tie or a jacket, were changed while he was giving his monologues before another scene began. This small element made the audience feel like they were living every moment along with Nick as he gradually transitions into his disillusion.
Many aspects of this production of The Great Gatsby were astonishing. They even had an incredible full-sized car that actually drove on stage. It was clear that much time and effort was put into telling this tragic tale, and thankfully, the plot didn’t stray too far from that of this iconic novel.
The Great Gatsby runs at the Grand Theatre until March 3. For ticket information, visit grandtheatre.com.