In a nondescript, run-down office, red-haired Scott Shepherd sits down at an ancient computer. It fails to boot, so he picks up a copy of “The Great Gatsby” and starts reading. Out loud.
His colleagues show up and go about their mysterious business. One guy (Ben Williams) has been sitting in the corner since before the audience arrives for Elevator Repair Service’s “Gatz.” In addition to taking small roles in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfolding story, he’s also the sound designer, flicking buttons to create birds and crickets, ringing phones and crashing cars.
A secretary (Victoria Vasqeuz), too glamorous for the environment, comes to life as the careless Daisy Buchanan. The IT guy in a mechanic’s jumpsuit (Aaron Landsman) emerges as George Wilson, the garage owner cuckolded by Tom Buchanan (Gary Wilmes). An assistant flipping through magazines (Susie Sokol) turns into golfer Jordan Baker, Nick Carroway’s love interest. ERS’s six-and-a-half-hour “Gatsby” gives you what no adaptation can deliver: every word of Fitzgerald’s lucid, heart-breaking prose, magically brought to life by an ensemble that materializes out of humdrum surroundings. The title character, a Jazz Age version of Don Draper played by Jim Fletcher, comes within moments of realizing a dream, only to watch it crumble.
You invest a lot in “Gatz”— money, time and sitzfleisch. It’s worth every dollar, every second, every aching muscle. If you’ve ever read an entire novel in one day, or made a long trip transfixed by a “talking book,” you’ll adore this approach. Gatsby’s heartbreak is still with me days after my marathon encounter, along with great admiration for the skill of this extraordinary company.