A nondescript man enters an empty, shabby office, flicks on the dreary lights and punches the button of his turn-of-the-century desktop computer. Nothing happens. Everything about this place reeks of drudgery; whatever the opposite of Jazz Age glamor is, this is it. But for our protagonist, there is an escape: flipping open a Rolodex while rebooting his computer, he discovers a paperback copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby. He casually flips it open and, after a pause, begins to read aloud, flatly and awkwardly. If you're witnessing this, you know that the entire book—all 49,000 words—will be incanted during an eight-hour marathon performance. In these first moments, as our reader stumbles monotonously through chapter one, a slight panic might grip you—but don't worry. Like the process of cracking open any new book, the immersion happens gradually. Soon enough, perhaps without quite noticing it, you'll be in its thrall.

Elevator Repair Service's audacious interpretation of The Great Gatsby mirrors the experience of reading, but also intensifies it. When you read a book for pleasure, you may set it down for days and return having forgotten some of what you've read. This mesmerizing production offers the rare opportunity to ride Fitzgerald's masterpiece in one continuous rolling wave (with a break for dinner). It starts slowly; as the man's co-workers begin to file in, they first shrug off his odd reading, but soon they're sucked into his world, taking us with them. A stolid mail room clerk transforms into Tom Buchanan (Gary Wilmes), another plucky employee slyly slips into the skin of Jordan Baker (Susie Sokol). They are all excellent, and in an almost imperceptible way, the story comes alive to a degree that no naturalistic adaptation could achieve. The ensemble seduces you into Fitzgerald's world by engaging your imagination—the artful sound design and lighting suggest the story's various locales, but the office never disappears, and it's their belief in this world, and their faith Fitzgerald's writing, that makes it all so vivid.

The play is called Gatz because, as you may recall, that is Gatsby's real name, old sport. In the movies, he's portrayed by heartthrobs like Robert Redford; here he's embodied by the bald and taciturn Jim Fletcher, one of New York's funniest actors. He doesn't play the part for laughs here, instead exuding a slight menace (and a deeper insecurity) befitting a man who made his fortune in the criminal underworld. By emphasizing Gatsby's real name in the title, director John Collins signals his intention to get to the real essence of the novel, using the most daring means.

After his intentionally rocky beginning, Scott Shepherd, the solitary reader/worker who begins our journey, blends seamlessly into the part of the story's narrator, Nick Carraway. Having performed the play around the world for five years, Shepherd has the entire book memorized, and as the devastating last act unfolds, after all the messy elites have "retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness," there comes a point when he continues "reading" while flipping randomly through the pages of the book, revealing that the book is already inside him. It's just one magical moment out of many. At the end, Shepherd finishes the book alone, sitting in effulgent light at his desk right where he started eight hours ago, and all those accumulated moments reach a breathtaking climax. Find a way to see this. It's sold out, but the publicist tell us that on days when they've sold rush tickets, many people have been successful. (Follow The Public Theater on Twitter and Facebook for updates.)