THE GREAT GATSBYby F. Scott Fitzgerald
Adapted for stage by Simon Levy
Garland Civic Theatre
Director – Kyle McClaran
Choreographer – Chandler Houston
Scenic Designer – Kyle McClaran
Lighting Designer – Josh Hensley
Costume Designer – Kyle McClaran
Sound Designer – Kyle McClaran
Properties Designer – Hector Cabrera
Stage Manager – Hector Cabrera
Jay Gatsby – Christopher L. Dean
Daisy Buchanan – Samantha Labrada
Nick Carraway – Josh Hensley
Tom Buchanan – Evan Figg
Jordan Baker – Jasmin Requena
Myrtle Wilson – Dalaina Kay Chester
George Wilson – Johnathan Chisholm
Meyers Wolfsheim – Sufyan Elmoumi
Mr. McKee – Sufyan Elmoumi
Policeman – Sufyan Elmoumi
Waiter – Sufyan Elmoumi
Manservant – Sufyan Elmoumi
Singer/Dancer – Sufyan Elmoumi
Mrs. McKee – Jennifer White
Mrs. Michaelis – Jennifer White
Singer/Dancer – Jennifer White
Photos by Celeste Rogers
Reviewed Performance: 2/28/2014
Reviewed by Scott W. Davis , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Great Gatsby chronicles millionaire Jay Gatsby’s life as told by Nick Carraway, who moves in next to Mr. Gatsby after WWI. Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, another New York millionaire, introduce Mr. Carraway to several others in their circle of friends, and then take him on a glamorous journey that only a millionaire could afford. Ultimately, the party atmosphere takes its toll, turning characters against each other.
Unfortunately, Garland Civic Theatre’s production of the adaptation of the classic workby F. Scott Fitzgerald falls short of being glamorous.
Overdressed set and bad technical decisions plague this show from start to finish, but there is a bright light - the acting. The set design by Kyle McClaran was extremely large with two half circle staircases, connected by a large platform section, creating an entrance under it for different scenes.
Flanking the staircases were two paintings, one of a car and one of a vase, yet another staircase leading to a platform. The set’s concept was great as far as useful acting space, but what hurt it was the set dressing. The paintings looked too inexpensive and amateurish for being hung in a millionaire’s house, and the set dressing was so overly done that actors had trouble moving in certain areas. During Act 2 an actor accidently knocked one of the statues off the platform because there was no room for him to stand. I was impressed with the staircase with the platform on top. In the beginning of the show it was used for Gatsby to stand on. The staircase was on casters, and in the scene where Gatsby takes Nick flying, the set piece moved to center, wings came out from the sides, and all of a sudden it becomes the plane. Best part of the set if you ask me.
Technical problems came up throughout the entire show. During the pre-show, I was talking with the man sitting in front of me. I had to yell over the music playing. Several times throughout the show the sound levels were set so high that a lot of us were covering our ears. There was underscoring through the play, and once again, levels were inconsistent.
The other technical problem was the lighting by Josh Hensley. It was extremely uneven, and there was no common color wash across the stage. At times throughout the show, actors walked through three different colors as they crossed the stage, making realism almost impossible. A major acting area by the couch had little to no light so that actors were hard to see. Unconventional colors were used for front lighting which added to visibility issues. Finally, the fades between scenes were incredibly long, making actor hold poses for twenty to thirty seconds.
Costuming for the show was excellent. Mr. McClaran did a great job finding some wonderful period outfits. From the pink taffeta dress to the flapper dresses for the dance scene at the beginning of Act 2, the pieces fit the time period perfectly. Gatsby’s pink jacket really reflected the 20’s style while character Jordan Baker’s skin-tight black dress looked the part for the time. You could see Mr. McClaran’s sense of humor in some of his choices; the red tuxedo tails, while possibly not truly period, fit the moment beautifully. Makeup and wigs were hit or miss - Gatsby’s wig was supposed to be blonde, I believe, but under the lighting looked grey. It was also not styled well so really stood out as a wig.
Though not a musical, Chandler Houston’s choreography implemented dancing and singing several times during the show. The swing music and dance numbers at the beginning of Act 2 was wonderfully choreographed and executed, and was a delight to see.
Several actors stood out in this production, and Josh Hensley, as Nick Carraway, was one of them. Carraway is the narrator of the story who starts and ends the play with some pretty lengthy monologues, and Hensley was pristine throughout. What great projection through the entire show. No matter where he went on the stage I could hear him plain as day. His acting was extremely animated, making him a huge focal point, and his performance was one of the best of the evening.
Samantha Labrada, as Daisy Buchanan, was another great performance. Her mixture of facial expression and fluent movement really sold her role as a flapper. Her movements were fluid as she moved about the stage but what really got me was her use of simple blocking techniques to enhance and draw the audience in. Whenever she moved around she made sure to open her body up to the audience which when you have people on two sides can become extremely tricky. But the best part of her performance came during the altercation scene between her and husband Tom. During the scene Tom slaps her in the face. They did it in slow motion, and her every movement was perfectly timed with actor Evan Figg’s hand. Even though it was slow motion and obviously fake, she sold the slap.
Tom Buchanan is truly the one character in the play you love to hate. Evan Figg’s performance pulled all those emotions out of you. The minute he entered the stage you begin to hate him. Arrogance was seen through Figg’s whole performance. And when Buchanan finally got a slight conscience, Figg sold it with some somber movement and great facial expressions.
I was slightly disappointed with the performance of Jay Gatsby by Christopher L. Dean. Dean’s performance was more along the lines of an Ivy League snob rather than the extravagant high-living millionaire. I couldn’t figure out the character’s mood or feelings through the play; he never really showed any expression at all. Dialect is another issue with Gatsby. I couldn’t figure out what accent he was using since it changed almost every line making it impossible to figure out.
Jasmin Requena played Jordan Baker as a little shy and laid back which worked well for her character. She played well against all her fellow actors but mostly against her character’s boyfriend, Nick Carraway. His complexion was slightly paler than Ms. Requena’s which made for great contrast on stage; the couple really looked good together. Her looks aren’t the only thing I noticed though. Her perfect diction and her projection was some of the best onstage. She didn’t try to change her dialect at all which made it extremely easy to listen to her lines. It really was a well rounded performance.
Myrtle Wilson creates some fireworks when she enters the stage. There is no way anyone that see’s Dalaina Kay Chester’s performance could say she was not desirable to Jay Gatsby. Her movements slightly slowed down to enhance her sexuality. She slinked around the stage in a way that would definitely make any husband think she was cheating on them.
Johnathan Chisholm portrays George Wilson, husband to Myrtle. At first, his performance was a serious yawner. There was no depth to his characterization of the automotive repair man. But I was wrong! It all came out during the murder, suicide scene. Mr. Chisholm scared me. When you saw his eyes change, you knew there was a transformation happening. What an excellent job bringing out the animal persona that his killer character needed.
Both Sufyan Elmoumi and Jennifer White had multiple roles in this production, and both sang in the show. Mr. Elmoumi was extremely fun to watch; his flamboyant movements as the manservant were hilarious. Ms. White’s performance was more subdued. Her mannerisms were good and she had great movement onstage, but then, when she opened her mouth and sang, I was sold. What a voice this woman had. She mainly sung acappella and I couldn’t wait for more.
There was some great acting in the Garland Civic Theatre’s production of The Great Gatsby but the technical aspects were so far below par I don’t think they broke even.
Garland Civic Theatre
The Patty Granville Arts Center
300 N. Fifth St. Garland, TX
Performances are Friday - Sunday, with a Thursday performance on March 5th. Tickets are $22.00, with discounts for groups of more than 10.
For information, go to http://www.garlandcivictheatre.org/ To purchase tickets, call their box office at 972-205-2790.