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IRT opens it’s 2015-16 season with Simon Levy’s 2006 stage adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic – The Great Gatsby. Many are familiar with Fitzgerald’s signature piece, whether in book form or from having seen one or more of the movie versions of the novel. Levy’s version should be highly placed in that roster, and is in fact the only stage version of the story officially sanctioned by the Fitzgerald estate.

IRT’s staging of the script is an ambitious, glittery, and well cast event, which I am certain would please even the most enthusiastic of Fitzgerald aficionados. Starting with Peter Armster’s precise direction of his splendid cast – the production offers a detailed telling of the story, with beautiful and imaginative stagecraft by Lee Savage, Katherine Freer, and their crews; glorious costumes by Tracy Dorman and her assistants; and amazing lighting and sound by Thomas C. Hase and Victoria Deiorio, respectively.

Zach Kenney as Nick Caraway and Teagan Rose as Jordan Baker in IRT's production of

Zach Kenney as Nick Caraway and Teagan Rose as Jordan Baker in IRT’s production of “The Great Gatsby”

Zach Kenney leads the cast with a thoughtful portrayal of Nick Caraway, the Fitzgerald-like story teller who is our eyes and conscience for the tale. Kenney’s easy manner sets just the right tone for Nick’s response to his interactions with the upper-class crowd in New York. He is fascinated, acceptlng, troubled, repulsed and rejecting all in good order as he joins the swirl of his cousin, Daisy and her friends. Hillary Clemens is remarkably adept in her rendition of the love-torn Daisy Buchanan. She presents a frail and self-absorbed young woman, who is wonderfully obverse to her husband, Tom Buchanan, played with a repellant charm by David Folsom. Teagan Rose is lovely and engaging as Daisy’s good friend Jordan Baker, and Angela Ingersoll plays Tom Buchanan’s mistress Myrtle Wilson with a sufficiently hard faux-classiness. Ryan Artzberger drips of piteousness as Myrtle’s husband, George, while IRT regulars Charles Goad and Constance Macy are solid in an assortment of supporting roles.

Hillary Clemens and Matt Schwader star as Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in IRT's production of

Hillary Clemens and Matt Schwader star as Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in IRT’s production of “The Great Gatsby”

Finally, and of some significance, Matt Schwader makes the role of Jay Gatsby his own with a vulnerable quality that somehow rings truer than the movie Gatsbys I have seen or the one that existed for me in my readings of the book. Schwader seems to understand that the native Dakotan is a bit out of his element in his current status and that all his climbs and accumulations have been for one, perhaps misguided, purpose – to win Daisy.

The result of this combination of fine actors and actresses is a clear telling of the familiar story, with noticeable departures from this writer’s concepts. Here is a fresher Gatsby than I expected and therefore a more enjoyable theatre experience.

Charles Goad, Zach Kenney, Angela Ingersoll and Constance Macy frolic in IRT's production of

Charles Goad, Zach Kenney, Angela Ingersoll and Constance Macy frolic in IRT’s production of “The Great Gatsby”

Bottom line: One goes to an IRT production with a certain expectation of quality and that was surely met here – with an outstanding and captivating production, both in interpretation of the classic source work and in innovative stagecraft that presented the multifaceted story with authority.

The Great Gatsby continues on IRT’s main stage through October 25th. For ticket and reservation information, go to http://www.irtlive.com or call the ticket office at 317-635-5252.

  • Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
  • Photos by Zach Rosing
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