Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gatz, Elevator Repair Service, American Repertory Theatre, 05.02.10

The other day I subjected myself to more than six hours of continual theatre, attending Elevator Repair Service’s “Gatz” at the American Repertory Theatre. “Gatz” is a dramatization of the entirety of “The Great Gatsby” – every single word of the novel is read out and performed during a marathon theatrical experience split over two performances, Part One and Part Two.

I am not new to such extravagantly long productions: I experienced the 10 hours plus of John Barton’s “Tantalus” (and even worked with him on a part that was cut from the original performance), I spent the whole day watching as “His Dark Materials” came to life before my eyes, and I recently returned from the annual Moby Dick Marathon in New Bedford, where I sat entranced as a group of Melville stalwarts read, in short chunks, the whole of that whale of a novel. So the 6 hours daunted me not.

What I was interested to see was how Elevator Repair Service would hand the tricky act of performing a novel not as an adaptation for the stage, but with the whole text intact – all the “he said”s and “she whispered”s and what have you.

I am delighted to say that, for the most part, they succeeded admirably. The central conceit is a simple one: we begin in an unnamed office in which an unnamed employee is trying to start his day. His computer does not work (he shows us this through mime – there are no words for the first couple of minutes). Since he cannot get to business, he picks up his copy of “The Great Gatsby” and begins to read. We “hear” his inner voice as he reads to himself but, as we find out when other characters enter the scene, the “real” dialogue of his day (that between him and the other workers) is muffled and indistinct – a series of mumbles and amorphous sounds. So, rather like in Shaffer’s “Black Comedy”, where we see the stage lit up the darker it is in the imagined scene, here we hear the character’s inner voice, but are deaf to the speech which is audible in his surroundings.

This simple setup continues for perhaps half an hour – our central character simply reads the book surreptitiously while trying to avoid doing any work, and comedy i provided by the looks of disapproval his conduct engenders in other workers at the office. But slowly, the words of the novel begin to leak out into his real world – a loud bang is heard offstage, and then one is referred to in the text; the magazine another character is reading bears a headline of uncanny resemblance to some item in the novel etc. And then, in one electric moment, one of the other office characters breaks out into audible speech for the first time, addressing our narrator – and speaking words from the novel. Thereafter, the novel begins to take over, co-opting the office staff as characters, and what was a dramatized reading within a theatrical frame becomes more and more a full dramatization. This trend continues in the second part of the production, in which the frame narrative of the office is almost forgotten, and the novel runs the show.

Generally, this makes for an excellent and thought-provoking show, particularly when you begin to see how the characters of the office workers mirror the characters they will later become in the novel. Some ingenious directorial decisions heighten the effect, too. Generally, in dramatized readings I have seen, a sound effect or action will follow its description in the text. So, for instance, someone would say “and they could hear a low groaning sound”, and then the sound would be played for the audience. In “Gatz”, this trend was reversed – actions and effects preceded their novel-bound cause, so you would see key actions performed before hearing Fitzgerald’s description. This was an extremely astute decision since, before long, I found myself expectant, waiting to hear how key actions were to be described. This made me anticipate the text, and therefore listen more closely to it.

Another ingenious stroke was placing the lighting and effects technician front stage left throughout the whole performance, and occasionally taking small roles in the action. This was intriguing, since it provided another layer of narrative – we had the “office layer”, the “Gatsby layer”, but also the “audience layer”, outside of both narratives, which sometimes included the technician, but sometimes did not. So the novel, in a sense, bled through the wall between the audience and the performance by way of the technician.

Particularly powerful were the last few scenes, when our narrator simply sits at a table reading the novel and then, astonishingly, places the novel down and recites the last few pages from memory. Here, it felt like all artifice had been stripped away, and the novel was simply speaking for itself on a darkened stage.

Sometimes, there were missteps and missed opportunities. During the first part, when the office characters were beginning to take on their roles as characters in the novel, there was some hyperactive mime which, although somewhat comedic, rather broke the illusion of both levels of the theatrical reality – it is hard to imagine either the office workers or the characters in the novel engaging in some of the weird, overplayed, flailing movements which a couple of the actors indulged in for a laugh, even if they did illustrate some word or phrase in the text.

Some links between the novel and the office were overly forced, too, making the piece seem occasionally disingenuous – a little as if the cast were shouting “look how smart we are to link these!” An instance when one character far-too-obviously held up a magazine to show the audience the title comes to mind, as does a strange moment when the technician was lining up small metal torpedoes on his table, seemingly for no reason other than to provide a link to the text. My feeling is the subtler the initial transition between office-reality and novel-reality, the more magical and poignant the experience for the audience, and sometimes “Gatz” pushed too hard.

Finally, I wondered about the ending. It was certainly powerful and moving, but its very simplicity – the narrator simply sitting and reading to us – raises powerful questions. Did we need the set and the office frame at all? If the book is that powerful on its own, does it need clever stage devices to sustain our attention? I spent six hours listening to volunteers read Moby Dick aloud and didn’t get bored (I was desperate to stay longer!), so could I not have enjoyed a simple reading of “Gatsby”? I wonder. Also, there was no attempt to “pop-out” into the reality of the office again at the end. I think that may have been a great piece of theatre – the characters slowly returning to their office roles as the spell of the novel wanes. Connections could be made between Fitzgerald’s “story of the west” and the office life in which the workers find themselves, and thoughts could have been provoked.

Something to think about.

32 comments:

曉豪 said...

色情網自拍影片色情文章比基尼成人動畫色瞇瞇影片網小弟貼影片bt成人成人 影片日本成人網站日本成人網站破解日本成人網址日本成人線上免費日本成人免費影片日本成人動畫日本曾根日本有碼 dvd 專賣店日本有碼進口dvd專賣店日本東洋影片視訊 辣妹g8成人下載av短片-免費a片亞亞 dvd 光碟嘿咻kiss168cu成人bt情色 網4u成人0401影音視訊交友愛情館本土自拍xd成人圖區新人淚成人色網kkg亞洲免費影片av影片欣賞性行為補給站999成人性站最愛78論壇最色情的網站最色情的遊戲最多人聊天室最大a片網

彭志文 said...

Practice makes perfect.......................................................

BennieS_0123Godina said...

你不能左右天氣,但你可以改變心情 ..................................................

0802RicoLisi said...

It's great!!............................................................

黃k0822oryb_card said...

Necessity is the mother of invention................................................................

許冠廷 said...

感謝分享好的作品~~........................................

韋于倫成 said...

多謝美味的心靈雞湯............................................

桂竹桂竹 said...

逛到您的部落格讓我忍不住停下來!期待您的新文章!! ..................................................

展姍展姍 said...

好的開始並不代表會成功,壞的開始並不代表是失敗..........................................................................

reeselane said...

不錯唷~我會常常來 >"<..................................................

彥安 said...

回應是最大的支持^^y~~~甘吧嗲 .................................................................

貢慧 said...

知識可以傳授,智慧卻不行。每個人必須成為他自己。......................................................................

佩春 said...

良言一句三冬暖,惡語傷人六月寒。.................................................................

王名仁 said...

累死了…來去看看文章轉換心情~.......................................................

芸茂芸茂 said...

hi!~~leave you a message to say hello, and thanks for your share!..................................................................

姿柯瑩柯dgdd憶曾g智曾 said...

寫文章需要心情~~期待你再一次的好文章............................................................

新順 said...

累了嗎?來杯咖啡休息一下吧!............................................................

佳皓佳皓 said...

有夢最美啦~~加油!元氣滿點!............................................................

嘉剛青卉 said...

這麼好的部落格,以後看不到怎麼辦啊!!!..................................................................

倫妍倫妍 said...

來給你加油打氣!!!保重!!!..................................................................

溫緯李娟王季 said...

拒絕冒險和成長的人,終將被生命的潮流陶汰。..................................................

俊成俊成 said...

大肚能容,了卻人間多少事,滿腔歡喜,笑開天下古今愁。..................................................

蔡靜芳蔡靜芳 said...

認同您堅持和認真的態度,加油!支持你..................................................

林彥以林彥以 said...

與人相處不妨多用眼睛說話,多用嘴巴思考. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

凱v胡倫 said...

快樂,是享受工作過程的結果..................................................

柏鈺苓俐 said...

A friend to everybody is a friend to nobody.............................................................

承王蓁 said...

生命的意義,是在於活的充實;而不是在於活得長久。......................................................

老陆 said...

所有的資產,在不被諒解時,都成了負債.................................................................

孫邦柔 said...

死亡是悲哀的,但活得不快樂更悲哀。. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

8468 said...

聰明人之所以不會成功,是因為他們缺乏了堅忍的毅力。.................................................

孫邦柔 said...

不論做什麼事,相信自己,別讓別人的一句話,把你擊倒。..................................................

佳張張張張燕張張張張張 said...

在莫非定律中有項笨蛋定律:「一個組織中的笨蛋,恆大於等於三分之二。」..................................................