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‘Gatz’ entertainment: Reading comes to life

“Gatz” is an experience no true theater lover should miss.

“Gatz” is an experience no true theater lover should miss.

Elevator Repair Service’s seven-hour, two-part treatment of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is simple, meticulous storytelling that engages the audience in a journey that is both exhilarating and exhausting. And in order to maximize the experience, you need the stamina to sit for long stretches and the ability to let your imagination run wild.

Set in a dumpy, generic, windowless office, “Gatz” is the story of an ordinary office drone who discovers a tattered copy of Fitzgerald’s classic tale while waiting for his computer to be repaired. As he begins to read aloud, both he and his equally ordinary co-workers morph into the characters from “The Great Gatsby.”

As the office worker who becomes Nick Carraway, Scott Shepherd is the glue that keeps all the pieces of this ambitious puzzle together. His subtle yet powerful voice, with a hint of film-noir inspiration, unsuspectingly leads the audience into an almost hypnotic state while the stellar ensemble creates an unprecedented kind of theater magic.

Only when it’s over do you realize that although you’re watching working-class people in a grubby office, you can almost see the fabulous homes, fancy cars and glitzy wardrobes of their wealthy alter-egos. And while you’re speculating on the great divide between the haves and the have-nots, the remarkable similarities between the two become alarmingly apparent.

In the end, if you’ve done it right, “Gatz” may indeed leave you speechless.

‘Gatz’
Through Feb. 7
American Repertory
Theater
64 Brattle St., Cambridge
$25-$75,
617-547-8300
www.AmericanRepertoryTheater.org