BWW Review: THE GREAT GATSBY Brings Iconic Characters to Life at the Orlando Shakes!

BWW Review: THE GREAT GATSBY Brings Iconic Characters to Life at the Orlando Shakes!
Matthew Goodrich as Jay Gatsby and Kathryn Miller as Daisy Buchanan star in Orlando Shakespeare Theater's production of The Great Gatsby. Photo by Tony Firriolo.

Gatsby? What Gatsby?

When you hear this charming protagonist's name, what images flash through your head? Lavish parties dripping with elegance? An atmosphere of abandoned care filled to the ceiling with social climbers? Pearls, fringe, and feathers that drape over the silhouettes of dancing women? Smoke and mirrors that orchestrate a timeless vortex of pure magic? "The Great Gatsby" has extended beyond the realm of high school reading curriculum and has become an iconic entity synonymous with the 1920's. The novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald has inspired certain adaptations including ballets, television episodes of popular shows, computer games, and most famously the 2013 film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire. The Orlando Shakepeare Theater continues this legacy with their production of the stage adaptation by Simon Levy which opened on February 8th.

In reference to the extravagance that is assumed in this time period, the set is sleek and classy. Scenic Designer Dan Conway and Assistant Tyler Herald expertly provide us with the perfect backdrop for this turbulent story to unfold in front of. The colors gold, black, and white, married together with textures of metal, tile, and marble, echo the superficiality and appearance-driven denizens of West Egg, Long Island. A large projector screen in the center of the action aids in filling in the blanks in terms of setting, and is done so in a tasteful way that never feels unrealistic. The only stretch of the imagination the audience may find is envisioning these large, iconic parties where there are never more than a handful of people onstage. Jordan's line, "I love large parties, they're so intimate," feels especially far-fetched in reference to the stage picture. Costumes by Jack A. Smith fulfill a dual purpose, acting as both pieces of art and class dividers in this work. Lighting designer Kevin Griffin also pays homage to a couple famous visual symbols found in the original novel.

Though the aesthetic elements of this production are immensely successful, it is ironically the humanity and realness of the characters that make this adaptation just as compelling as the original novel. The ensemble work propelled by Director Anne Hering is executed flawlessly by the principle characters: Jacob Dresch as George Wilson, Georgia Mallory Guy as Myrtle Wilson, Christian Ryan as Tom Buchanan, Aubrey Saverino as JorDan Baker, Kathryn Miller as Daisy Buchanan, and especially noteworthy are Buddy Haardt as Nick Carraway and Matthew Goodrich as Jay Gatsby. Goodrich has a voice and a presence that are approachable and intimidating simultaneously, you find him trusting, yet mysterious, and altogether quite complex. Haardt's transformative portrayal of Nick Carraway acts as bookends to this tragic and complicated love story. His character begins as a passive bystander, a vessel through which we are able to see the real story, and ends with a passionate and intense monologue that criticizes the social norms that have come to fruition around him.

What: Simon Levy's stage adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.

Length: 2 hours including intermission.

Where: 812 East Rollins Street, Orlando, FL

When: February 8 - March 26, 2017; 7:30 PM on Thursdays-Saturdays and select Wednesdays, 2 PM on Sundays

Cost: $13-$50

Contact: 407-447-1700 or

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From This Author Kelli McGurk

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