Sunday, October 6, 2019

Memo from the RTC: A few Parting words from The Great Gatsby

Last show today and it is sold out.

Supporting actors: Danielle Rose Fischer (Lucille), Jose Velez (George), Samantha Caiati (Myrtle), Nick Baytler (Chester), Fred Grieco (Meyer).

Leads: left to right: Tiffany Faulkner (Jordan), Steven Wagner (Nick), Nona Varano (Daisy), Nick Safier (Gatsby), John Squires (Tom).

Memo from the RTC: A few Parting words from The Great Gatsby
By Norm Scott
The WAVE - Oct. 4, 2019 -

I went back to see The Great Gatsby based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel for a second time and was even more impressed. It closes at the Rockaway Theatre Company this weekend so don’t miss this powerful story that digs deep into the American psyche. I wanted to share a few thoughts on some of the ideas contained in the Fitzgerald story and mention a few more of the actors.

The play’s narrator and conscience is Nick Carraway, impressively portrayed by Steven Wagner (who was featured in last week’s WAVE). The story he tells of love lost, found and lost again, along with the examination of the class structure of America in the 1920s, seemed in so many ways to be autobiographical. I was inspired to check Fitzgerald’s background and the similarities to both the fictional characters of both Carraway and Gatsby himself are stark. Fitzgerald split himself into two characters, thus creating a powerful story of the narrator telling the story of Gatsby, his alter ego. I believe the larger than life daring Gatsby was created in Fitzgerald’s mind as someone he would have wanted to emulate. There is a real Daisy, a Chicago daughter of wealthy society figures, Ginevra King, who seemed to obsess him and characters based on her appeared in numerous works. This comment in the film and play versions is an indication of why their relationship failed: Poor boys shouldn't think of marrying rich girls. Not that Fitzgerald was poor, coming from the upper middle class, but relatively he was and underlining the story is bastardized version of class struggle and how different the very wealthy are. A Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren he isn’t, but he does go into unexpected places for a 1925 novel, notably when he touches on the white supremacy thoughts of one of the characters and the mocking of those ideas by others. Those years were the highlight of the Ku Klux Klan.

Last week I talked about the superb lead actors, four of them new to the RTC (we hope they will be back). There was a second tier of minor but significant roles with vet RTC actor and Rockaway community leader Jose Velez playing gasoline station owner George Wilson and Samantha Caiati his wife in the role of Myrtle, the mistress of Daisy’s husband Tom Buchanan. Sam, who married director Frank Caiati a year ago, lights up the stage whenever she is on – in fact she sets the mood and sense of doom for the play in her few scenes with her intensity. Jose plays her husband in a humble, low-key manner, which only makes his final actions so effective. Fred Grieco, another RTC vet, plays gangster Meyer Wolfscheim so effectively I would run if I saw him coming down the street. Playing Myrtle’s friend, a tipsy Lucille, is RTC vet for half her life Danielle Rose Fischer, the fiancĂ© of assistant director and sound designer John Panepinto, who staggers around the stage so effectively I wanted some of what she was drinking. Rounding out the crew is Nick Baytler, in his second role at the RTC, vividly portraying a sleazy, oily character. Nick. a salesman of sorts in real life, may have some practice.

On Monday the Tony Homsey construction and destruction crew will take down the beautiful set, including that wonderful hidden swimming pool and figuring out where to put that gorgeous yellow roadster replica, then start building the set for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the final show of the year, opening November 8 and running for three weekends, taking us right up to Thanksgiving week.

Norm posts all his RTC and School Scope articles on his blog,

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