The Great Gatsby opens Friday at the Golden Chain Theatre

In a party scene from The Great Gatsby, from left Cristien Dunkel as Jay Gatsby, Amer Persson as Daisy Buchanan and Chris Heard as Tom Buchanan. The play opens a nine-show run Friday night at the Golden Chain Theatre.
In a party scene from The Great Gatsby, from left Cristien Dunkel as Jay Gatsby, Amer Persson as Daisy Buchanan and Chris Heard as Tom Buchanan. The play opens a nine-show run Friday night at the Golden Chain Theatre. Special to Sierra Star

Millionaire Jay Gatsby will bring his extraordinary optimism, along with a couple flaws, to Oakhurst Friday night for the opening of The Great Gatsby at the Golden Chain Theatre with a cast of 16.

The story portrays life in New York during the 1920s, a time of breathtaking glamour and decadent excess of the Jazz Age.

On the surface, The Great Gatsby is a story of the thwarted love between a man and a woman. The main theme of the original novel, however, is much less romantic.

This classic tale will come to life before your eyes in grandeur and opulence that’s grown to be expected from your host for the evening, Jay Gatsby, played by Cristien Dunkle, and his former lover, Daisy Buchan, played by Amber Persson.

“The Great Gatsby is a timeless classic and bringing it to life on the stage was no easy task,” said co-director Miranda Simonich. “Thankfully, I was paired in direction with Lyric Gianni, whose passion for the story was evident from the beginning. Lyric and I had a similar vision for this production. Though we are different in many ways, we truly complement each other and I believe that really shows when you see what we have been able to create together.”

“I like playing Daisy Buchanan because she’s so different than anything I’ve ever played before,” Persson said. “The Great Gatsby is an amazingly deep book, and I’m very honored to participate in this portrayal of it. Daisy is incredibly deep and I like it. I like our adaptation of The Great Gatsby for many reasons, one of them being how we have a good balance of the classic Gatsby, and our own twists. Also, the set and costumes are so amazing and very fun to wear. The cast all works together so well and it’s really a good show.”

Persson explained that the characters in the play are all deep and metaphorical.

“You don’t even have to like the book to enjoy the show,’ Persson said. “Actually seeing the character will catch your interest and not loose it. Because all the characters are so deep, we have a lot of concentrated emotion, and even the slightest glance can be symbolic.”

Simonich calls the cast diverse and brilliant.

“They’ve taken these characters and brought them to life so that they no longer feel like characters, but real people. Cristien’s (Dunkle) natural charm lends itself effortlessly to his portrayal of Jay Gatsby. Caroline McDonald exudes a cool confidence that is difficult to find in other actors and is the perfect pairing to Nick’s (Matt VanDeWal) amenity. Daisy is a very difficult role to play because of the complexities of the character, but Amber Persson has captured Daisy’s essence beautifully and with a grace that is beyond her years. We are so proud of this amazing cast and can’t wait to share this show with the community.”

Chris Heard plays Tom Buchanan, Gatsby’s rival for Daisy’s love.

“Buchanan who is a hulking, aggressive, and rich man who represents old money,” Heard said. “Tom is one of the book’s least sympathetic characters.”

For Heard, it’s the first time ever on a stage.

“I’ve have been to a handful of shows over the last couple of years at the Golden Chain Theatre and have always been impressed with the incredibly talented actors in our community,’ Heard explained. “I came to open auditions to see if this was something I might be able to do. I encourage everyone to come out. This process has been so much more fun and rewarding than I could have ever imagined.”

Heard said Buchanan is not someone he would likely be friends with in everyday life.

“So trying to deeply embrace his character was a challenge, but that is the magic of theatre that you can become someone entirely different for a roll and still really enjoy the process,” Heard said. “The directors have been incredible in helping each actor to reach deeper into every character, and you cannot miss this production of The Great Gatsby.”

The Great Gatsby was a 1974 American romantic drama film based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel of the same name, with screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola. The film starred Robert Redford in the title role of Jay Gatsby, Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchan and Bruce Dern as Tom Buchanan.

The Great Gatsby

  • Rated PG for adult situations and language
  • May 4-20, 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays
  • Tickets $12-$17
  • www.goldenchaintheatre.org, (559) 683-7112