By Catherine Wagley
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By L.A. Weekly critics
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By Catherine Wagley
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Guimarães then repeats the routine, down to every nuance, including the "Looks like you've done this before" crack, and "Now that you've seen this card, that experience can never be repeated" — which it just was. The performance isn't so much about cards as it is a riff on the childlike essences of what keeps our attention. And of course how those essences can be recycled, even after a span of five minutes.
If you think this is an argument for the shortness of our attention spans, you must see Gatz. The first two hours contain a sometimes grating mockery of Fitzgerald's source material as the actors, ostensibly employees of the crumbling 1980s firm, use overblown physical gestures that correspond to Fitzgerald's descriptions. One wild party is depicted as farce in the "office" against a backdrop of jazz (sound designer Ben Williams' work is impeccable), with office papers tossed en masse into the sky so they settle like snowflakes into chaos. Those initial, smirking ironies raise the question: Why hold us here for hours staging a novel to which you feel so superior?
Then comes a slow, steady softening, The computer parts of Louisa Thompson's set retract, allowing Fitzgerald's 1920s Long Island and New York settings to emerge through the torrent of words, and the core saga of narrator Nick Carraway (Shepherd) observing his bachelor nouveau riche neighbor James Gatz (Jim Fletcher) — aka Gatsby — struggling awkwardly over his five-year love for beautiful Daisy (Victoria Vazquez), now a married woman.
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The novel's tawdry morass of fidelity adrift yields to tragedy — the tragedy of an era and an empire — that yields to a nuanced and beautifully rendered homage not only to Fitzgerald's novel but to the capacity of theater that, when sufficiently trusting, allows us to conjure ragtime opulence from a backdrop of gray and seamy walls, from largely fluorescent lighting (by Mark Barton), from the evocations of background sounds and from the force of words — hours of them, rendered with such patience and wry confidence.
ELEVATOR REPAIR SERVICE: GATZ | By F. Scott Fitzgerald, directed by John Collins | Presented by REDCAT: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, 631 W. Second St., dwntwn. | Tues., Wed., Fri., Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m.; through Dec. 9 | (213) 237-2800 | redcat.org
NOTHING TO HIDE | Written by Derek DelGaudio, directed by Neil Patrick Harris | Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd. | Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Jan. 6 | (310) 208-5454 | geffenplayhouse.org