October 5, 2015

The Great Gatsby

The Indiana Repertory Theatre opens its 44th season with an American classic. The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous portrait of the dark side of the American dream. His novel captures the futility of spending your life longing to capture an illusion. In Simon Levy’s adaptation the play brings that heartache to life in all its glittering intensity.

We see the story unfold through the youthful eyes of Nick Caraway (Zach Kenney). In the midst of the jazz era he moves to New York City and connects with his cousin and the wealthy elite in her crowd. He’s in awe of his new friends, but also troubled by the strange lack of morality they all seem to embrace.
Hillary Clemens portrayal of Daisy Buchanan brought something to the role that I’d missed in other film portrayals. For me, her struggle had more depth and felt more real. She’s a character that’s often depicted as shallow and selfish with little else to offer, but Clemens instills her with a relatable disillusionment. The audience can see her waiver between her longing for security and comfort and her desire to follow her heart. 

As Gatsby, Matt Schwader exudes a vulnerable desperation. He’s trying so hard to be part of this new world, but it’s clear he’s never comfortable in the role. I’d been impressed by Schwader’s turn as Hamlet at theAmerican Players Theatre and was not disappointed by his performance in this title role.

The trouble with seeing The Great Gatsby on stage is that the play’s focus is on excess and luxury. We see it in Gatsby’s parties, in the Buchanan’s East Egg home, and in the overall lifestyle of that time period. It’s a crucial part of the story, but it’s almost impossible to capture the lavishness of that world on a small stage. 

The set design adds in small elements with touches like a chandelier, and the use of a multi-media backdrop helped enhance scenes by enlarging the parties or showing the valley of ashes. But the sparseness that’s necessary with so many scene changes means it’s difficult to be overwhelmed by the wealth and opulence that’s intended.

Tracy Dorman’s costume design was outstanding in this production. Clothing plays a huge role in the creation of each character in The Great Gatsby and Dorman nailed the tone. From Daisy’s flowing gowns to the men’s perfectly tailored suits, no detail was neglected. 

The production is a wonderful season opener. It’s a difficult show to stage, but the story is timeless. Whether you’re new to it or have read the book and seen the movies, it’s still a treat.


Don't Miss the Show 

The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois St. and southbound Capitol Ave. "The Great Gatsby" runs until Oct. 25 on IRT's OneAmerica Mainstage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com

Photos courtesy of the IRT

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