Bloomington's Professional Theater Company

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HT Preview: The Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald’s classic story has real staying power

Joel Pierson | HT Columnist

August 25, 2019

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” has been captivating people since it first came out in 1925. That’s some real staying power for a story with a protagonist who is more 1% than 99%.


But maybe that’s what keeps people coming back year after year — a chance to peek behind the curtain of millionaire Jay Gatsby and see how the ultra-elite live. Fitzgerald was smart in giving us an everyman narrator in Nick Carraway to explore this strange world. Nick is us, and we are him. And as the cracks appear beneath Gatsby’s polished veneer, we see that money can’t buy happiness, and maybe we feel a little better for it.


No, this isn’t a book report. I tell you all this because Cardinal Stage is presenting Simon Levy’s stage adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” in the weeks ahead, and I want you to have something more than Leonardo DiCaprio’s boyish charm to go in with when you see the play — which you should. It’s part of this year’s Themester, “Remembering and Forgetting.” We see this theme throughout the play, as different characters pursue the future they want but still find themselves bound by memories of the past, as they try to escape.


Set on Long Island in 1922, “The Great Gatsby” introduces us to bond salesman, Yale graduate and World War I veteran Nick Carraway, who (somehow) manages to get a rental home next to Gatsby’s mansion and becomes fascinated with the mysterious man who throws lavish parties but never seems to appear at them. We then meet Nick’s cousin Daisy and her husband, Tom, as well as golf pro Jordan Baker, the keeper of some interesting secrets.


Once the players are in place, the complex and compelling plot unfolds. Paths lead to Nick being invited to Gatsby’s house for a party. Once there, he finally meets his elusive host and realizes that they served together in the war. He also realizes that Gatsby has known and quietly loved Daisy for several years. We then learn his hidden motive for having these parties — and for taking Nick into his confidence. It’s all about seducing Daisy. Right, like a young woman in an abusive marriage would fall for a good-looking millionaire who dotes on her endlessly! Oh. Umm … spoilers?


There’s so much more to tell, but I won’t divulge it. Instead I’ll let director Kate Galvin tell you her thoughts. “‘The Great Gatsby’ is a memory play — narrated, as the novel is, by Nick Carraway. Just as Gatsby can’t let go of his memory of his romance with Daisy, Nick is equally drawn into the past by a summer that shook his world. He tries to make sense of the whirlwind of glamour and violence, captured wonderfully by Simon Levy’s fast-moving and faithful adaptation.”