Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Great Gatsby (The SOB Review) - Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN

The Great Gatsby (The SOB Review) - Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN

** (out of ****)

I'd love to be able to tell you that the first regular production at the starkly stunning new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis is not be be missed. Unfortunately, since the stunningly stark new adaptation by Simon Levy of the F. Scott Fitzgerald's seminal classic book from 1925 only occasionally soars, I can't. The sad news is that when it sinks, it goes deep, particularly when lead characters Nick Carraway (Matthew Amendt) and Jay Gatsby (Lorenzo Pisoni) are on stage.

To be fair, the underlying story of love and deception among New York's society elite remains fascinating, and actress Heidi Armbruster is absolutely breathtaking in her depiction of lovetorn Daisy Buchanan -- vaguely reminiscent of a dizzy Jessica Lange, particularly in appearance. Cheyenne Casebier and Erik Heger are spot-on in their portrayals of Daisy's best friend Myrtle and two-timing husband Tom.

But that is not enough to save this play from director David Esbjornson's (The Goat Or Who Is Sylvia?) plodding pacing, which is exacerbated all too often by slow motion devices used between scenes. (In fact, the show runs about a half hour too long.) And instead of 20s urbane grandeur, Thomas Lynch's set design opts for the mundane, apparently thinking less is more.

But what really confounds is how Amendt and Pisoni were so miscast in the first place. Amendt's last Guthrie outing was in the title role of Hamlet. While those treading the boards with The Bard are often given a pass for overacting, Amendt continues that in his portrayal of Nick -- a Midwesterner. His over-enunciated narration seriously detracts from the play, and he rarely shows natural signs of life. Meanwhile, Pisoni's rather effete portrayal of Gatsby completely casts doubt on the entire premise that Daisy could continue to pine for this self-made man long into her marriage with Tom.

The Great Gatsby may have been chosen by the Guthrie as a way to pay homage to one of the Twin Cities' most revered writers during the inaugural of its outstanding new facilities, but they'll need to pick up the pace in future productions to keep audiences coming back.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Great Gatsby! Guthrie's Main Stage Makes Debut Tonight (July 15, 2006)
Minnesota's Guthrie Theater Sets Stage for Its Second Act (June 24, 2006)

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