One could argue that it's gimmicky, and at times it seems to disappear as a conceit altogether. It gives the production a welcome freedom, though. And it works as more than just a literal representation of the transporting power of literature (and theater). It also mirrors Nick Carraway's and Gatsby's immersion and disconnection from the decadent circles they find themselves in.
There were times when I drifted, times when I checked out, but they were never for long. I was pleased with my ability to remain connected to the event. In all honesty, during the dinner break I was a little exhausted by the prospect of returning for another 3+ hours, but I wonder if I would've appreciated the things about the performance that I loved if I hadn't been persuaded to give myself over to the production's pacing.
And it's refreshing to be provided this opportunity to disconnect from mobile devices and multitasking -- even if everyone was checking their email and texting and tweeting during the breaks -- to adjust to the rhythms of a novel being read aloud. To remind myself that I can do it.
I so admired the simplicity of the production. And I say that admiring also the inventiveness in the show and occasional wildness of the scenes. But this was done in one simple set with good light and sound, complementing but not stealing focus from the novel, the show's real star.
I haven't read the book since college so I'd forgotten much of the second half. Because of the book's pacing, the climax happens so early in the last act that wrapping things up takes a while. Here again is where I think adjusting to the pace and rhythm is so important. Scott Shepherd finally abandons the book and recites the final passages -- it seemed like at least half an hour's worth, but I'm not sure -- which contain such stunning prose I wanted to immediately grab the copy off the set during the curtain call and read it all over again. I understand why the book is considered a great American novel, but the ending is so specific and connected to character and in culmination of the book's events; I suppose one could read it as representative of an era or as allegory but I felt it most strongly as that place, those people. And Nick Carraway, full of wonder, sadness, grappling with his own history. It's such a devastating, resonant ending that it made me appreciate every second that preceded it so that it could land the way it did for me.
And it was all done by one everyman reciting some text on a stage.