Scott Fitzgerald classic story of wealth and obsession comes to life on stage
What better way to mark the 100th anniversary of prohibition — and ring in the new decade — than through an American classic stage performance set during the decadent Roaring 20s? That’s right, Old Sport, it’s Simon Levy’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, now playing at the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre.
A story bursting with passion, greed, idealism and obsession, the Backstage’s Gatsby is a fun, straight-forward and nearly flawless production. The second act’s opening duet of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)” — sung by Robert Jones and Rebecca Summer — proves to be a show highlight and brings the Jazz Age to life on stage. It left me wanting more and in search of the nearest gin-soaked Speakeasy.
With the snap of a finger, Nick Carraway (Joey Folsom) pauses the play to narrate the story of Jay Gatsby (Sam Johnson), a self-made millionaire who obsessively yearns for Daisy Buchanan (Kelsey Colwell). Daisy is unhappily married to the cheating Tom Buchanan (Benjamin Mandell) and the story follows the rekindled relationship between Daisy and Gatsby. But in the end, Daisy can’t say she never loved Tom — something Gatsby wants more than anything. Thanks in part to terrific casting on the part of director Nathan Autrey, the entire group of actors deliver superb performances. Facial expressions exploding with anguish and despair, Colwell conveys a convincingly conflicted yet exquisite Daisy, while Folsom portrays the true embodiment of Nick Carraway.
Gatsby’s set is rather minimalistic, cleverly leaving much to the audience’s imagination. It’s only contrasted by a pair of oversized, creepy spectacled eyes, representing the site of a tragedy that takes place at a gas station in Queens, halfway between New York City and the play’s fictional settings of West and East Egg. The gas station is owned by the husband of Tom Buchanan’s lover, Myrtle Wilson.
The performance relies on a limited number of props. The one exception is a delightful scene where Gatsby is showing Daisy the closet of his mansion and the cast starts throwing out dozens of brightly colored shirts, symbolizing the wealth Gatsby has achieved – all in an effort to impress her.
Obsession abounds at the Backstage this season
Director Nathan Autrey says the themes in The Great Gatsby are representative of the theater’s upcoming season. “Each production tells a very different story, but they all share a common theme – characters who become obsessed with what they want instead of being aware of who and where they actually are,” Autrey says. “In each story, this obsession leads to irrevocable ramifications which affect not only the obsessed character, but everyone around them as well.”
Karen Mason has been enthusiastically putting her English degree to work for nearly 30 years. Raised by theater-loving parents, she grew up in Minneapolis but then headed west to attend Colorado College. Karen and her husband have lived in Summit County, Colorado for 25 years and have two grown children.