Legacy Theater of Branford presents “Great Gatsby”, a realistic 1940s radio show

BRANFORD — Jay Gatsby is a mysterious man who reinvents himself, trading his humble beginnings in the Midwest for a fictional story of privilege and success.

His unrealistic love for socialite Daisy Buchanan drives him to remake who he is and create a sophisticated gentleman of enormous wealth, who lives in a huge mansion and throws elaborate parties in the West Egg section of Long Island.

Until Saturday, you are invited to enter this golden age, thanks to the Branford Heritage Theatre, to see Joe Landry’s fateful adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, with original music by Kevin Connors: “The Great Gatsby: A Live Radio Play”.

The First World War is over, and although alcohol prohibition is the law, the smugglers are getting richer and richer by making and selling alcohol to cheering audiences. It’s the Jazz Age and the pursuit of pleasure is an art form.

Jay Gatsby has embraced a new code for accumulating wealth through illegal means, as he sees it as the best way to reclaim his lost love, Daisy, and achieve what he sees as the American Dream, his ultimate goal. Her unusual and tragic saga is told by Daisy’s neighbor and first cousin, soldier and friend Nick Carroway (played by Dan Frye), a concerned and caring narrator.

Complete with an abundance of sound effects and two delightful commercials, this realistic 1940s radio show boasts a Jamie Burnett set with vintage comms (from the Connecticut Vintage Radio and Communications Museum in Windsor), period costumes by Jimmy Johansmeyer, props by Erica Pajonas and direction by Kevin Michael Reed.

Erik Bloomquist’s Jay Gatsby is affable, elite, charming and enigmatic as he greets society, smokes an ubiquitous cigarette and calls everyone he meets “old sport”, while Mary Mannix’s Daisy is eager to stay here and now and proclaim his love today.

She forgets that she gave up on Jay when she felt he wasn’t good enough for her. She is also careful to forget that she is married to a wealthy husband, Tom (Josiah Rowe), and unaware that he is having an affair with another woman, Myrtle Wilson (Skye Gillespie).

Myrtle’s husband, George (David Bell), only learns of his wife’s infidelity after a tragedy, which leads to ultimate devastation at the end of the play.

That’s when the American dream dissolves into greed and decadence.

According to Joe Landry, the play’s adapter, “I was drawn to writing the Gatsby adaptation because I wanted to explore this classic novel and this generation of American dreamers.

“The production has so many layers and so much to see and hear. I think it’s such a smart and sophisticated production, and it reminds me of the WPA period and the photos I’ve seen of the original production of “Our Town”.”

Coincidentally, Landry’s first job at age 16 was at radio station WELI when she was in downtown New Haven, but has since moved to Hamden.

For tickets ($35 to $60), call the Legacy Theater, 128 Thimble Islands Road, Stony Creek, at 203-315-1901, or go online at LegacyTheatreCT.org. Productions are Thursdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Greenlight this excellent radio re-enactment broadcast live on WELI from New Haven, the story of a man who used his wealth to buy anything he wanted except the most important, love.

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