"The Great Gatsby" is playing at the Picketwire in La Junta Thursday through Saturday with curtain time at 7:30 p.m.

The audience at dress rehearsal on Wednesday night was full of high school students from area schools: Fowler, Crowley County and Cheraw. They were reading or had just finished reading Scott Fitzgerald’s "The Great Gatsby" in class. I believe "Gatsby" is a better choice than "Macbeth" to show a 17-year-old what tragedy is about. Romantic love is a lot easier to understand at that age than lust for power and honor.

Nick Carraway narrates this story of love and tragedy in the postwar America of the Jazz Age. He is skillfully played by Cody Rogers as the observer of the main characters, a cousin of the beautiful and naive Daisy, well played by Ana Mathews. He displays the bystander trying to decipher the action, bewildered as a young observer, but believing in Gatsby’s spirit and determination.

Director Brenda Erwin skillfully sets the scene of the Roaring Twenties with her Charleston dancers at the beginning of Act I and Act II. This reporter particularly liked the Act II ‘Black Bottom’ routine, showcasing the dancing of Bethann Traver and her partner in the center of the line.

Tom Buchanan as played by Ben Meiklejohn is believable as the totally careless husband of Daisy, not realizing until the very end what a treasure he had in her. Erwin did a masterful job of casting of the central characters in this play.

Kudos for the scene in the New York apartment where Nick Carraway is introduced to the players in Tom Buchanan’s double life. Kalee DuBois as Myrtle Wilson makes us see how she was charmed by Buchanan and his lifestyle, and we feel for her and her "things." The whole thing has a taste of the tawdry.

John Eubank gives a glimpse of what it would be like to be haunted by a love he nurtured in his heart for five years, mixed with a fascination for the extravagant life of the very rich. Meyer Wolfscheim represents the way he had to get there, his connection. Tom Seaba, who plays Wolfscheim, makes the most of every moment he is onstage, leaving with his profound line, “let us honor our friends while they are alive.” Nevertheless, there stands Nick, picking up the pieces.

But if we were giving an Oscar, it would have to go to Jayden Martinez as George Wilson, the deceived and deluded. Don’t miss this play — this is a great American novel, presented in its bare bones onstage.

Show dates for “The Great Gatsby” are April 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $12. To reserve tickets, visit the Picketwire Center for Performing and Visual Arts at 802 San Juan in La Junta, Colorado. Box office hours are 5:30 to 7 p.m. Call 384-8320 or visit picketwireplayers.org.