Gatz Tries a Novel Approach to Fitzgerald

Tendered is the text in ERS's latest show

Hearing the entire book spoken aloud, though, does reveal the source of its durability: It’s two books in one. Gatsby’s idealized love for Daisy, like his emptily luxurious life, is a romantic daydream, a dirt-poor kid’s fantasy of wealth and elegance. Nick, who comes to love Gatsby for his total faith in this dream, also exists to ironize it; he knows the selfish realities of Tom and Daisy’s upper-crust world too well to share the dream. Readers get the romantic thrill and its sardonic corrective in a single serving, sometimes perfectly blended in one of those infallible Fitzgerald sentences.

Shepherd and crew get lit.
Joan Marcus
Shepherd and crew get lit.

Fitzgerald didn’t need ERS to create that effect. Yet he owes them something for their cockeyed, Gatsby-like, faith in his text. Particularly, he owes much to the doggedness of Shepherd, whose voice, understandably, gets a little gray with fatigue in the last quarter of this seven-hour event, but who never loses variety or a feeling for verbal nuance. What intentions fuel ERS’s experiments with great American novels remains an open question; whether such experiments are worth pursuing remains a bigger one. But with Gatz, particularly given Shepherd’s manifest devotion to this enormous effort, nobody can accuse them of not loving the great works they tackle.

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