‘The Great Gatsby’ Review: Raising a Glass to an American Tragedy

There’s no party like a Jay Gatsby party. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s film The Great Gatsby, the blatant billboards of American ambitions and nouveau riches never stop the festivities. So is Immersive Everywhere. “The Great Gatsby: An Immersive Show” It is a cheerful feast that stimulates the five senses, and although the running time is slow at two and a half hours, it is by no means more than a mere attraction.

In Fitzgerald’s classic novel, Gatsby was a shady but successful man who made a fortune and spent it in a Long Island mansion, where he threw lavish soireees. increase. Gatsby’s neighbor, Nick Carraway, tells the story of Gatsby’s tragic and ultimately fatal fall from the world of the rich and famous. Gatsby wants to seduce Nick’s cousin Daisy, with whom he has an unforgettable romantic relationship. But Daisy married the savage Tom Buchanan, a chauvinist thug with a hot temper and her mistress. As a love triangle threatens to tear their lives apart, the bourgeoisie’s glamorous life turns out to be nothing more than a cover for their emptiness.

Adapted and directed by Alexander Wright, and screened at the suitably swanky Park Central Hotel, Gatsby, with its modest side entrance next to a Starbucks, is decidedly 2020s rather than 1920s. The entrance leads to a dazzling Art Deco ballroom with a large bar, stage and grand staircase, where flappers dance, gentlemen in fancy suits drink, sequins, beads and fedoras. , with a sea of ​​fringes and a fashionable audience blending into the cast.

As Nick Carraway (played by Rob Brinkman) moves through the crowd and begins the story, Gatsby (Joel Acosta) wears a white suit with a black collar and sharp wingtip shoes, walking down the stairs. watching from above Major plot points, including major introductions and conflicts, are played out as set scenes that everyone witnesses together in the main space. Otherwise, Nick and the various characters tear apart the audience groups to find rooms off the main ballroom—the lounge and me, styled with the luxuries of home at the time, such as plush velvet sofas and chaise lounges. move to the room.

This work faces typical problems in immersive adaptations of literary works. It is a way of translating a beloved text in a format that is better suited to de-emphasize the text. After all, there’s a limit to the plot, dialogue, and character developments you can offer to an ever-diversifying audience.

Fitzgerald’s work is a short read that can be finished in an afternoon, but the producers thin it out so much that the supporting characters are elaborated on or mixed up to add enough material when necessary. , you need to create a new supporting character. It feels like Gatsby: Extended Version with fillers and bonuses that no one asked for.

The characters’ dialogue sentences are often erratic, and when they stray too far from Fitzgerald’s terse style, they become noticeably weaker. Also buried are the book’s ironic considerations of the gorgeous, unholy surface of American power and status.

The main casting is well done, with Brinkman’s Carraway instantly recognizable even before he speaks. He leaps between different members of the audience, seeking understanding and reassurance, rolling his eyes with tension and earnest excitement that an outsider peers into. Acosta is truly timeless, an old Hollywood relic with classic beauty and charm. Jillian Ann Abaya, always beautifully costumed in a flirtatious white dress, doesn’t quite deliver the whimsical, hilarious, pre-manic pixie dreamy girl qualities Daisy seeks. Also, Shazeb Hussain has Tom’s bravery but no threat. Claire Sanders gives Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, her nimbleness and sass, playing a romantic second-rate diva who feels trapped in her life, especially in her marriage. And the ensemble is always lively and enthusiastic as they weave through the party or take center stage to dance the Charleston.

However, Wright’s renditions often lack nuance and quickly become boring. The performers strike the perfect balance between improvising with the audience and delivering scenes from the script, while also spending a lot of time talking to everyone in the room. . And the constant limping of the audience means confusion, distraction, and offensive behavior. With bar access and the participatory nature of the show, people sensitive to drunkenness and loud interventions can be their worst selves. (Though I am grateful to the actors who have always kept playing their characters, like when a chatty, giggling female duo in my show snapped Abaya in the midst of Daisy’s mental breakdown. “I’m glad you found this interesting. This is my life.”)

Casey Jay Andrews’ exquisite set design, Vanessa Luke’s stylish costumes, and Jeff Kreuter’s ever-shifting mood ring effects of lighting are beautifully blended into a vivid and all-encompassing vision of 1920s New York. And that is a remarkable feat. But the equally beautiful sentiment behind Fitzgerald’s creations isn’t found at the bottom of a tumbler glass.

great gatsby
At the Park Central Hotel in Manhattan. immersivegatsby.com. Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes.

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