“The Great Gatsby” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ March 26, 2012


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

A marvelously wry but one sided look at America during the opulent Roaring ‘20s emerges in Arizona Theatre Company’s “The Great Gatsby,” an interesting stage version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece novel that captures this wild and transitioning period.  The American Dream was dying as the wealthy, some born and some made, use their money to destroy people.  The novel’s story is outlined in a tight two hours in this Simon Levy stage adaptation.  ATCs small set pieces don’t capture the period’s grand luxury; only the elegant period costumes suggest the era’s lush grandeur.

The story, set in the ‘20s, pictures an ongoing American situation of hard working people who gain wealth and expect that the money entitles them to join those born wealthy.  The central character, Jay Gatsby is from a wealthy family but enhances his riches illegally through American prohibition.  The tale’s narrator, Nick Carraway, is Gatsby’s neighbor who comes to New York to make a killing in the bond market.  The story is Nick’s recollections of the people and events that cross his life during the summer of 1922.

Nick visits his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her rich husband Tom.  The typical hypocritical man, Tom has a mistress.  Nick meets Jordan Baker, a cynical woman with whom he becomes romantically involved.  These characters and the situations they tackle shows how this period broke the American work ethic as the wealthy abused life.

Stage versions of this novel are a challenge but adaptor Levy streamlined events and characters so it flows naturally from event to event.  You understand the period’s decadence and how America’s excesses destroyed.

Director Stephen Wrentmore, ATCs Associate Artistic Director, mounts an interesting production that moves fluidly on Yoon Bae’s sets that are aided by a revolve that shifts locales almost cinematically and with David Kay Mickelsen’s flowingly beautiful period fashions.  Roberta Carlsen’s mood invoking original background score enhances the story.

The cast is tops from David Andrew Macdonald’s suavely sophisticated Gatsby, to Zachary Ford’s earnest Nick who remains aloof from the action as he treads the fine line between playing a character and narrating the story.  William Peden’s Tom is the stereotypical male that does as he likes with unrealistic expectations of his wife, Daisy, and Myrtle, his mistress.  Monette Magrath’s snotty Daisy is snobbish, Sofia Jean Gomez’s Jordan is the all knowing woman who tattles on her friends, while Marta Reiman is the tartish Myrtle.

If you love the novel, you won’t be disappointed by ATCs “The Great Gatsby” but if the story and situation seem to lack objectivity, this show won’t make it richer or more palatable.  It continues through April 8 at the Herberger Theater Center.  For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: C


One Response to ““The Great Gatsby” – Arizona Theatre Company”

  1. Bill Summers said:

    May 28, 12 at 02:06

    This was a well-done masterpiece. I agree that the period costumes and sets were accurate, and acted as a virtual time machine back to the roaring 20’s. Especially the simpler props such as the airplane and taxicab. Yes indeed, the revolving stage facilitated the flow of scenery quite well. All the actors and actresses here were exceptionally talented. Especially at portraying drunks during a time when alcoholic beverages were an underground commodity. I have seen Monette McGrath before (Lady Caroline in “Enchanted April”) and hope to see more of her and the rest of them in the future.