Journal

Elevator Repair Service | Where were the flowers? Sep 23, 2007

by Stephanie

Why do this? The Great Gatsby in its entirety - set in some office that feels more like an excuse of place, than a necessary part of the storytelling. Does it provide me with some new understanding of office politics? Are human beings all searching for that elusive American Dream, especially those working in dingy offices? Are they screaming for a better life, or compromising with every breath and wondering why the Dream has slipped through their grasp? Why this place? Why now? How is the human condition illuminated by Elevator Repair Service’s Gatz?

I cannot answer many of those questions yet – but my immediate reaction to all the questions put together is this: Layers & Details. ERS’s Gatz is full of layers: the office setting is just the first one the audience sees and has to deal with, the fantastic and critical sound design is another, the critical mass of stuff that begins to take the shape of something more – the boxes, papers, mismatched furniture pieces, the washed out look of this world and the people that come and go, the picture on the wall by the door that suggests a world bigger than this, the window in the corner that frames another world and the window in the back that sometimes feels like a window and sometimes feels like an extension of the wall all under the guidance of Scott Shepard’s soothing narration as Nick.

I slipped in and out of this world as it went on. (Don’t come into this show without a full night’s sleep.) The details pulled me back when I was slipping away. The party early on with Tom’s lover Myrtle was a chaotic found object frenzie that made me see through the  ”˜office setting’ layer into this messy world of Myrtle and her sister. This and other areas of chaos came to a moving stand still when Gatsby had a moment in the doorway with the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock – I saw nothing else but the yearning at that point and it was beautiful.

Having read the book a few times and seen many stage, film and television adaptations of this work I am always amazed at how unsatisfying the story is for me. I never believe in Gatsby, or perhaps I chose not to understand him, and thus am baffled by him. I always try to convince myself that the story is really Nick’s story because, after all, he is telling the story, he’s the one sees the world a little differently on the other side ”¦but I always want more from Gatsby and Daisy – and I never get it, however – the interpretation of Jay Gatsby here is the best I have ever seen. I saw him as more than a cardboard cut out of someone handsome. He was noble, he was a child, he was dark, and occasionally uplifted by the woman he loved. I also loved ERS’s Daisy – she felt like a grown up this time, and less like an innocent child.

I agree with many of the things Brett says in his blog. I was hoping for more experimental things to be done with the second half of the piece, but was indeed a tad disappointed. Fitzgerald's words spoke to me in many ways for the first time in this piece. That would be the final layer for me. The importance of words is the detail and layer that brought it all together. Hearing every word and phrase reminded me that words in fact do have meaning, and when put together in certain sequences can actually move you. I was moved by Fitzgerald’s text more than the production, but am not sure it says much about the human condition – I’d like to think it is trying to tell us that every world has secrets – and those secrets hold the key to our larger perspective on life.

My final thought – why didn’t they do something with all the flowers Gatsby has brought over to Nick’s to impress Daisy. The gesture has so many layers to it – that even a single fake flower would have added the much needed detail for this turning point in the story.

Take a nap before you come!

-Stephanie Farhood

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