It's an odd thing to see opening credits play out in real life. As strange as you would think seeing them for a stage production. And so we sit as the actors traipse through, talking in silence and raising glasses and personas. The only thing missing, their names superimposed across the lip of the stage.
Carrying on over, we sit forth under the glare of high melodrama. That gloss, that sheen of the opening credits, diving right into a world of champagne. Old money, older ties, people who just want to mix their drinks. Nick Carraway (Mason Wagner) stepping into a world that's going to render his optimism raw. Already a slight cynic, so his downward spiral into reality isn't much of a spin.
Daisy Buchanan (Kelly Campbell) is swigging high enough on most notes that she's about to crash, and crash hard, on every other sentence. It's a wild ride. Hard to split the line between serious affectation, hiding a manic, or throwing to the back row. Jordan Baker (Amber Rose Mason) on the other hand is a sloop of going with whatever is in the waters, taking it as it comes. Stark contrast between two ways to live a life that wants to be somewhere else. Meyer (Colton Hochhalter) utters a few lines, and it's rather hard to understand anything through that thick accent. Here's another curtain between our personas and the world.
Jay Gatsby (Mark Kuntz) here drips this charm as he sidles into view, that turn of the corner of his mouth, that glint in his eye. Setting things up and making sure you're already a willing participant. Every time he utters "Old sport" it's another wall, but damn if he isn't so likeable in the construction of this facade.
Daisy then takes up the entire space of the night, a quake of her wake as the other characters are just there to feel the vibrations. For that, you stand back a little, not sure of where she's going to step or fall. Broad loud strokes, wanting some kind of truth, but not enough to stop living a lie. And this is whom Gatsby still pines for? An obsession well orchestrated, the target, not so worthy of it.
The eyes in the backdrop, floating in as they're talking about God, is on the nose. When the iris changes colour, what is that? Is that another god taking stand, or just the emotions coming through the all-seeing? Now we question how much is passive, how much is watching the turn of events play out in the grand scheme of schemes.
Where others have generic roadies running back and forth dressing the set between scenes, here we get the whole world as maids and house staff work in the shadows. This is all just a manor and we're guests as the party plays on. And they sing, and dance, and they frolic. All a lie waiting for the turn of that cold shoulder. Inside the mansion, then outside with a spin of a few props and so it is with the way you build your own character and the person you represent to the world, hoping in turn it doesn't swing from the rafters as a caricature.
For all the lies The Great Gatsby wraps us in, it's a reminder that forgiving your past is a whole lot easier than trying to reset it. Easier still when you sober up.
Witness to the 31 March 2015 performance by the Montana Repertory Theatre at The Center for Rural Development in Somerset, Kentucky.
Reviewed on Monday, 6 April 2015