By: Patrick Christiano
Be forewarned The Object Lesson created by Geoff Sobelle and directed by David Neumann, also a choreographer, dancer and actor, is a performance art piece running roughly 100 minutes at the New York Theatre Workshop. Sobelle is also the only credited actor, although another person in the guise of an audience member interacts with him. In his biography Sobelle calls himself an actor, director and maker of absurdist performance art, and the press release says he is mainly interested in moments of “the sublime ridiculous.”
For The Object Lesson, which played at BAM’s 2014 Next Wave Festival to much acclaim, the NYTW’s open space resembles a warehouse full of clutter filled with piles upon piles of cardboard boxes and objects of all sorts, impressively designed by Steven Dufala. In fact, the scenic installation may be the best part of the show as audience members are encouraged to go early to roam the setting and sift through the debris. “Enjoy yourself,” a program notes says “All this stuff has been waiting for you! Take a box and open it. Explore. Find someone curious in the room and give them something…” Indeed, if you want a good seat, you must go early. Many audience members settled for sitting on hastily arranged boxes since there is a limited number of actual seats available on the sofas or chairs that are part of the design.
When we finally meet Sobelle he talks at the audience as opposed to engaging them in the performance piece that is basically five vignettes not actually connected to one another. There is a clever one where the guest makes a phone call, and then the phone calls back repeating the first call to create a second conversation.
The highlight and most inventive is when Sobelle in ice skates prepares dinner for an audience member, which consists of chopping the lettuce and carrots for her salad with his skates before launching into a dance on top of the table.
The final piece has Sobelle unpacking a bottomless box giving us a glimpse of his life from the present to the past. Part clown, part magician and highly athletic Sobelle cuts an entertaining figure, however for my taste the show is too long. Give me old fashioned theater with real dramatic impact.
Lighting design by Christopher Kuhl and sound design by Nick Kourtides were more than serviceable.
The Object Lesson is now playing at the New York Theater Workshop, 79 East 4th St. through March 5, 2017.
For Tickets Click Here
Photos: Joan Marcus