Friday, October 4, 2013

The Great Gatsby—Bag & Baggage—Venetian Theatre—Hillsboro, OR

All the Careless People

An Oregon Premiere of a literary classic from F. Scott Fitzgerald will be playing at the Venetian theatre at 253 E. Main St. in Hillsboro through October 20th.  It is adapted to the stage by Simon Levy and directed by Scott Palmer (B&B’s Artistic Director).  For more information go to their site at or call 503-345-9590.

Fitzgerald is considered one of the great American writers and …Gatsby his most famous novel.  Two movie adaptations of it have been made with varying success, one with Redford playing the doomed Jay and the most recent with DiCaprio.  The problem with any adaptation of a book is that things will be left out or changed, so that one can get a visual sense of the story. 

But, in this presentation, some of his actual words are presented on a scrim behind the players and you can appreciate what a poetic scriber he really was.  This is an effective device, not only to cover scene changes, but to truly appreciate the source material.  The scrim is also used to project various design motifs of the period.  And, another innovative addition, is the use of dance-like movements and tableaus to create the mood of the period and characters.

The story revolves around the idle rich on the Long Island Sound in New York during The Roaring Twenties.  The filthy rich have too much time and money on their hands.  Some, like Tom Buchanan (Colin Wood) and his wife Daisy (Cassie Greer), have garnered it through investments.  And, subsequently, acquired celebs, like a pro golfer, Jordan Baker (Arianne Jacques) and a poor cousin of Daisy’s, Nick Carraway (Ian Armstrong), to share in their wealth and boredom. 

Never mind the dalliances of Tom with the local mechanic’s, George Wilson’s (Adam Syron) wife, Myrtle (Megan Carver) or the fact that Jordan might have cheated to win her title.  But, across the way, lives the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Ty Boice), equally wealthy and bored, connected to the equally mysterious friend, Meyer Wolfsheim (Adam Davis).  Jay’s monies seems to be garnered from the bootlegging business and, thus, gangsters.

All would be well in this den of iniquity except that Jay and Daisy have had a previous relationship from the War years, which has smoldered all this time, and is soon to be reignited.  Obviously, this doesn’t sit well with Tom, but since he is no shining symbol of virtue himself, he has little reason to complain. 

But there are other ways to skin a wolf and so, through a series of missteps, and the death of one of the characters, a skewed justice of sorts does occur and the disjointed love story comes to an end for these broken people.  But these amoral, dysfunctional beings will still prevail through these unholy years, unrepentant.  Only Nick, the narrator of the piece, comes out the sadder but wiser man.

This show is beautifully visualized by Palmer, as he has his characters glide through the story as if on an ice rink.  The women pose and articulate, in a stylized way, the decadence of the period.  And the men, a bit discordant from this vision, plow through, try to make sense of it all.   The costumes, by Melissa Heller, are spot on for the period and flow like the bathtub gin did.  And the set design, by Megan Wilkerson, is simple, allowing the story and actors to freely weave the tale.

Boice as Gatsby has the right look for the part.  He gives us a layered character, accenting not so much the flamboyance of traditional interpretations but of the vulnerability of the man, thus making him more believable.  His smooth, almost casual delivery, gives us the impression of a man tired of living but too distracted by the possibilities of life to die.

And Greer is his equal.  Her whiskey voice is a welcome contrast to the previous incarnations, which gave us a high-pitched, almost flighty impression of Daisy.  She is unhappy, down-to-earth, careless, straight-forward and oblivious and uncaring as to pitfalls and pratfalls that beset her.  As Ty, she is an original and terrific, also, in her performance.

The rest of the cast gives ample support and fleshes out to some extent the other characters.  Armstrong is especially effective as the voice of the narrator, Fitzgerald probably, and exposes a rather detached voice, letting the story/characters convey the emotions, rather than his interpretation of them.

A further note, this is a beautiful theatre, ornate like the movie theatres of that period were and has a bistro next door in which to dine and imbibe.  It would be well worth making a full evening of it and letting yourself be transported to another time and world, both in reality and visually.

I would recommend this play.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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