Last night I attended part one (of two) of Elevator Repair Service’s GATZ – a wildly unconventional adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, in which every single word of the novel is spoken. In order. The entire performance lasts about six-and-a-half hours, and while I had the opportunity to see the show as a marathon this Saturday or Sunday, I decided to take the easy route and see it in two parts over two evenings. Most of the time I don’t feel a day over 24, but the idea of sitting in a theater seat for seven hours in one fell swoop makes me want to play the age card. Or the unadventurous card. Doesn’t really matter which because either way it’s a card. Moving on.
I arrived at the theater last night in unfashionable (read: purposefully comfortable) clothing, looking forward to nothing more than settling down in my chair and allowing the language of the work to enfold me. There’s a sweet nostalgic comfort that accompanies being read to, and it seemed the perfect fit to the end of a rather difficult week and to the beginning of a long rainy night. The performance was wonderful…set in a fantastically dingy industrial back-office with office-workers living their office-lives yet assuming the characters of Nick, Gatsby, Daisy, Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker, and Myrtle Wilson (amongst others, including a hilarious moment with the eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg) on a sometimes-bustling parallel plane, the most beautiful moments are those when the set is quiet and dim and we are left with just our narrator, Scott Shepherd. You’ll have to forgive my sentimental foolishness, but it was honestly like being hugged by something far greater than myself, and being told that everything was going to be okay.
I was engaged. I was entertained. I was critical. I was inspired. Ever since I was first introduced to Elevator Repair Service in 2004 when the Walker brought Room Tone in as part of the Out There series (a dark, eerie piece that married the text of Henry James’ Turn of the Screw with his brother’s, William James, psychology writings) I have been a fan. But now, with my resolve to finally make a 'go' of it as a full-time actor, I want very much to be an active participant. I want to create the kind of theater they’re creating. I want to challenge and entertain with them, doing what I do best. Working with ERS as an actor is now officially on my list of goals. Expect a call, John Collins.