“GATSBY an immersive illumination – CHAPTER 1: East Egg” Ambling Through an American Literary Classic

By Ernest Kearney — I am not big on immersive theatre. I prefer the security of the stage separating me from the dramatic narrative and when in the performance mingling among the actors it’s sorta difficult to scribble my notes.

In this refashioning of the first chapter from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby, the audience is realigned as the embodiment of Nick Carraway, the book’s narrator, and he/we arrive at a dinner party thrown by Daisy and Tom Buchanan (Sarah Schulte and Colin Willkie.)

Chris Lanehart and Devon Michaels supply the voice for Carraway, while Ren Montoro lounges decadently about as Jordan Baker. The brief show ends with a cameo appearance by Bill Posley as Jay Gatsby.

Every moment of every performance of immersive theatre is fraught with the possibility of disaster.

One second actors can be engaged in emphasizing the environmental experience in seeking to deepen the interaction with individual audience members and the next, they find themselves at New Jersey’s Lakehurst Airfield in time to catch the Hindenburg’s arrival.

By a mixture of intelligence and craft, backed-up by a solid cast, Gatsy has avoided any such pitfalls.

Creators Kristen Boulé and Tiffany Asta, with production designer Madylin Sweeten, have nicely employed the courtyard and front foyer of the Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop to serve as Carraway’s Long Island bungalow in the village of West Egg as well as the dining room and grounds of the millionaire Buchanan’s estate.

Contributing to this achievement are the onsite musicians Leslie Baker and Paul Kriebich performing the works of composer Michael Teoli, the excellent costume work of Jen Derosa, and a solidly top-notch cast.

Silver Medal (via The TVolution)

I don’t know if my experience of The Great Gatsby’s first chapter was any deeper or more profound due to its configuration as an immersive production, but the time I spent as a guest of the Buchanan’s was hands down the classiest forty-five minutes I’ve enjoyed at the Fringe and among the most fun.

To Boulé and Asta, and their whole crew, a Silver Medal.

* * *

Gatsy – an immersive illumubatuion
was presented at
Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop
during the 2021 Hollywood Fringe Festival

For Updated Show Information Go To:

Hollywood Fringe Festival

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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