Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for October 2010

The Advocate’s man on the New York theater scene ushers in a bloody bloody good season with T.R. Knight, Cherry Jones, Charles Busch, Anthony Rapp, and the return migration of Matthew Bourne’s shirtless gay swans.

BY Brandon Voss

October 19 2010 10:10 AM ET

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If a six-and-a-half hour reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in its entirety sounds like a 10th-grade nightmare, skip Gatz. In Elevator Repair Service’s four-act epic, which has extended through November 28 at the Public Theater, an employee in a random low-rent office starts to read a copy of the arguably homoerotic 1925 novel. Gradually, his coworkers inexplicably begin to mirror the novel’s plot until they’re embodying the parts in period costume, which makes for an exhilaratingly bizarre first act. But three breaks and two numb butt cheeks later, little matched the magic of that initial metamorphosis. I wish my patience had been rewarded with less stagnancy and a clearer connection to the employees, who were intriguing even before channeling Gatsby characters like Jordan, the butch lady golfer, and Nick, the possibly closeted narrator.

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In the Next Room’s Sarah Ruhl further explored sexuality in her bewitching adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, a fantastical meditation on the fluidity of gender identity, which closed October 17 at Classic Stage Company. In Woolf’s 1928 novel, which is often described as a love letter to cross-dressing author Vita Sackville-West, a young English nobleman inexplicably wakes up one morning as a woman. Taking a cue from the 1993 film starring Tilda Swinton as Orlando and Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth, this play filled those roles with phenomenal androgyne Francesca Faridany and quirky out actor David Greenspan, one of three men in a gender-blurring Greek chorus. Ruhl wisely let Woolf do the talking here, opting for a descriptive third-person narrative in lieu of new dialogue — a children’s-story-theater style befitting a tale full of so much wit and wonder.

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