Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Educate Emma: Theatre: The Great Gatsby

I should start by saying I'm not the most objective viewer of this play. Since I had just finished the book two days before, I was very partial to the text whilst watching the play. However, I'd like to think that I'm good enough at this writing thing to view a piece separately from my emotions, so I'm still posting about this one.

To start off with the positive, everything about the set design was absolute perfection. The simplified, rich 20s style was beautiful. For a reader who couldn't quite picture the right setting due to my lack of historical knowledge, the visuals were a treat. Even the way the curtains transitioned scenes helped with the decadent style of the play. Costumes were very close to be perfect. They were gorgeous, but my issue was with how little attention was drawn to Daisy's consistently white dresses. Jordan also dressed in white during several scenes, and so the metaphor would have been lost to most audience members.


The ambiance the play has is excellent. The beginning and ending scenes of The Great Gatsby are pure brilliance for the eyes. The atmosphere's tone and prop staging is spot on; it's the actual content of the play that is lacking. The adaptation itself possesses many problems. For the majority of the play, the dialogue either feels inorganic or too self aware for the class and time. The amount of times prohibition was mentioned took me out of the play. I highly doubt a group of rich people with the means to buy alcohol really cared about the law - they certainly didn't in the book. The consolidation of scenes made sense, but my fangirl heart still whimpered at the lines and scene elements that were excluded. Some of these elements would have been worth the few seconds to include, but that is the way it works with adaptations. Everyone's a critic.

As for the actors, Gatsby and Daisy had little to no chemistry. That is a problem, when Gatsby had sustained himself on the promise of seeing Daisy when he is a reformed man. Gatsby had the mystery without any of the charisma or charm - there is no Nick Carraway monologue about the power of Gatsby's smile, and it's as if that key component of Gatsby was taken away along with it. Daisy was the most disappointing to me, though. She was intriguing and playful enough to see why the characters loved her, but Daisy was not mesmerizing enough for the audience to love her too. She owned none of the manic pixie dream girl qualities that made Book Daisy compelling, and so Gatsby's motivations and adoration seemed hollow.

Jordan Baker had fantastic costumes, but she talked too fast when she was telling stories. Baker is supposed to be athletic and used to wealth. Those fast, jittery sentences didn't fit the personality of the character, and they took me out of the story. Tom Buchanan's mannerisms did not properly communicate the pressing stature of a rich idiot. It was a shame, because that is all Buchanan is. The best actor in the entire ensemble is Myrtle, who matches the bright, lewd nature of the character in the book.

The actor who played Nick Carraway fit my physical image of Nick in the book, and his acting was fine. My main issue with Nick came back to adaptation. I get why it would be a better option to give Nick more emotions and eliminate his arrogance, but it screws with the character motivation once again. If Nick had been genuinely in love with Jordan, I don't think he would have been as consumed with Gatsby's story as he was. However, this is how the adaptation works, and it doesn't attempt to show the contradiction of Nick's words and actions. While it's only a small element of the story, that facet was one I loved. I was sorry to see its nonexistent nature in the play.

Some staging was exceptional, while the intonation of certain famous lines did not register the right conflict or characterization for me. This one had strikes against it before it even began, but I was disappointed by the acting ability and script.

The actual point: The work of the backstage team led to a masterful, magical result. The problem with The Great Gatsby is its core - the script, and the message the actors decided to communicate through it.

1 comment:

  1. Hm, we haven't seen this as a play, but we're really looking forward to the new movie adaptation of it, with Leo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan.

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