Arts Gatz at On the Boards: If You Think You Want To See It, You Do, and Today’s Your Last Chance
posted by September 23 at 11:39 AMon
Yesterday I went to see the NYC performance collective Elevator Repair Service perform the show Gatz at On the Boards. As some of you may have read, Gatz features every single word of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, and thus runs somewhere around six and a half hours, plus an hour-long dinner break.
In advance of the show, the running time was all I could think about. Same goes for my friends who attended. We placed bets on whether we’d really be up for the whole fucking thing. We made jokes about artistic masochism. We brought fidget-inhibiting booze.
Some light but important background: I love The Great Gatsby. I know this is as revelatory as praising the deliciousness of pizza, but it’s true. I’ve read it probably twenty times. In an effort to understand what made the book tick, I once copied down every verb used in the text (excluding “said”). I still have the list.
Why this matters: I walked into Gatz a quivering mass of expectation, fear, and dread. I walked out—six and a half hours later—slightly dazed and excessively grateful.
Those who bet on an intermission escape lost. (In your face, Kathryn!) The fidget-inihibiting booze was unnecessary, but still nice. The show was fucking amazing, and, after seeing it, I can tell you that the running time is the least interesting thing about it.
The basics: Gatz does indeed include every word on the novel, starting with a quiet, cold reading by a nebulous office clerk. Slowly, surely, and magically, this reading grows into a performance involving a full cast, in a way that couldn’t help reminding me of Stop Making Sense, with its intoxicating accumulation of players and effects.
The key: Everything the Elevator Repair Service chooses to do (and not do) with the text is pitch-perfect. Building their show from the blank slate of the office reader, ERS add careful bits of theatricality that, miraculously, only go to serve the text. All of Fitzgerald’s brilliance is preserved, literally, but expanded with great care and intelligence into a six-and-a-half hour spectacle.
The final Seattle performance of Gatz starts today at 4:00 pm at On the Boards. If you’re tempted to go, follow that temptation.