Arvada's 'Gatsby' is rich in illusion

Play brings iconic story to stage

The cast of the Arvada Center's "The Great Gatsby" brings F. Scott Fitzgerald's American classic to life. Courtesy photo
Jay Gatsby (Anthony Bianco) and Daisy Buchanan (Jamie Ann Romero) have a troubled history in "The Great Gatsby." Courtesy photo
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“All the characters of this story are skilled at creating worlds around them that fit their version of reality, but none is more committed to dreams than Jay Gatsby. He is master of illusion, and, like other gifted magicians, the `Great Gatsby' creates a beautiful world of deception. His blind commitment to the rags-to-riches American Dream betrays him …,” wrote Elizabeth Zurn, the new play dramaturg at Creede Repertory Theatre.

It's summer 1922 on New York's Long Island.

Not only are the characters skilled at creating an illusion, but the Arvada Center's technical magicians share that skill. The stage set, with its two levels and sets of doors, takes the audience from roadside filling station into Gatsby's mansion, with a 1920s musical background filling in gaps between conversations. Costumes are detailed and believable — with Gatsby's white and pastel summer suits, and flapper dresses and stockings with seams for the women.

Graham Ward plays a low-key Nick Carraway, who serves as a sort of narrator/commentator, at times breaking through the fourth wall to talk with the audience.

Anthony Bianco, as Jay Gatsby, is the dashing owner of the mansion next door to Nick's modest Long Island rental. He bought it, we learn early, to be near his longtime love, Daisy Buchanan (the excellent Jamie Romero), who lives across the sound. She has married abusive, prejudiced, wealthy Tom Buchanan (effectively portrayed by C. Clayton Blackwell in a Colorado debut).

Daisy and Gatsby had fallen in love before he left for army service, but she, focused on her own well-being, did not wait for him to come back.

Readers are probably familiar with F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous novel — adapted for the stage by Simon Levy. It is based to some extent on his personal story — so the reason to see this production would focus on how beautifully the Arvada Center's skilled cast and crew will present the bittersweet tale.

And they don't disappoint, although the chemistry between Gatsby and Daisy was not as solid as one might expect — or perhaps that's the point. Maybe these two are so self-centered, they are not capable of blind passion. “His voice is full of money …”

Also strong in their parts: gas station owner George Wilson (Steven Cole Hughes) and his wife, Myrtle (Caitlin Doran), self-serving society type Jordan Baker (Audra Blaser) and gangster type Meyer Wolfsheim (Steve Einspahr).

Not folks one would especially yearn to know, but they tell the audience a well-put-together, beautifully produced story, directed by Gavin Meyer.

If you go:

“The Great Gatsby” plays through May 25 in the Black Box Theatre at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays May 8 and 15; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets: 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org.