Elevator Repair Service, the theatrical troupe responsible for last year’s brilliant Off Broadway hit Gatz, is back. In The Select (The Sun Also Rises), director John Collins and a mostly sturdy team of 10 performers re-create Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises in a way that’s both stylized and faithful to the original. Unlike with Gatz, an eight-hour tour-de-force production that involved reading the entirety of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, word for word, The Select is a more abbreviated version of its source material, clocking in at a relatively fleet three hours.
The Select is just that: a selection of Hemingway’s most choice turns of phrase and hiccups of plot in the story of boozy British and American expats traveling from Paris to Pamplona for the bullfights. (The title also owes something to one of the favorite Paris bars of the book’s characters.) This being Hemingway, there’s a good deal of alcohol — and Collins cleverly sets the action in a wood-paneled tavern that is converted into the story’s multiple settings in a bare-bones fashion — the long folding tables even morph into bulls during the climactic bullfight at the end. This being Hemingway, there’s also a good deal of male swaggering (and derision for the ”simpering composure” of gay men). But mostly there’s drinking. And much of the production’s charm owes to sound engineer Jason Sebastian’s hilarious rendering of every poured glass and glugged-down bottle.
While The Select is certainly engaging, it lacks the magic of Gatz. Mike Iveson is a strong narrator, but he never completely convinces as Hemingway’s All-American Everyman hero Jake Barnes. Kate Scelsca is a little too shrill as Frances, the past-her-prime girlfriend of the Jewish Princeton grad Robert Cohn (Matt Tierney). And the cast occasionally struggles to shout their lines over the sound effects (or to nail a foreign accent as they double and triple up on roles). Happily, Lucy Taylor is a standout as the twice-divorced Lady Brett Ashley who careers between just about every man stage. Her performance would make Papa proud. B
(Tickets: TicketCentral.com or 212-279-4200)