HOARDING MEMORIES MAKE “THE OBJECT LESSON” AN INTRIGUING EVENING AT THE CURRAN UNDER CONSTRUCTION SE
ACTOR ARTIST GEOFF SOBELLE SEEMS AT HOME BURIED IN BOXES FILLED WITH SECRETS ABOUT ALL OF US
The art of hoarding and finding the true meaning to the items we save for no reason, is the THE OBJECT LESSON. Actor-illusionist-inventor Geoff Sobelle one man quest for meaning of life in a warehouse full of treasured filled boxes. Sobelle’s intriguing performance is now at the Curran:Under construction fall season, limited performances so it must close the same week it opens - October 18th. “Object” was first launched at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014 before it landed in New York, and has made stops in LA and other cities.
The Curran stage has been transformed into a warehouse full of boxes and lamps, and as you walk into the space you are encouraged to open the boxes and explore. Everywhere you stand or look there are cartons of boxes filled creative toss aways. I found an old Transformer toy in one. Another box left me a message to pass the box to another person. It is best you arrive early to explore the set and get the feel of the space Geoff will call home for 90 minutes. The installation designed by Steven Dufala, includes a library card catalog unit of drawers of mystery. This is the best part of the set to explore if you arrive early. Once showtime begins, you realize that most of the floor boxes are reinforced for seating, and the audience takes seat on a box. Sobelle enters and the lights lower as he begins this intriguing exploration and random clowning around. Christopher Kuhl's lighting, is buried deep in the boxes of the set and comes peering out during the performance, and Christopher Kuhl's sound design is also found in the tearsure as he pulls mics out of random boxes. The clever side of the lighting is the flashlight that Sobelle carries with him.
Sobelle enters into the maze and begins emptying boxes and creating a cozy living room for himself that includes a dial telephone, a fake plant, a turntable playing David Byrne’s “Glass, Concrete and Stone,”. He speaks into a recorder only to use that dialog for the a phone call that he gets and we listen to both sides of his conversation. Sobelle seems at home and is extremely comfortable trying to find himself from the boxes of life that he is buried in. I must admit the space does get claustrophobic with a sold out opening night crowd and stuffed stage of boxes and lamps - it could be a bit much if you don’t like crowded elevators.
Sobelle remembers his past and the greatest time of his life working in the French countryside. He climbs atop a mountain of his boxes, to open some them revealing moments from his life, and a hand mic, for the first time the audience can clearly hear him. Also lighting, sound, and food emerge from the boxes he opens. He shares some goat cheese, a baguette and a bottle of wine, all of which are generously shared with the audience. Two times during the performance I was handed a glass of wine by Sobelle or an audience member, delicious and not two buck chuck. There is a brief elegant moment when the main curtain of the ghostly Curran is raised, and revealed is a open space of a star lit sky. Sobelle takes no time in emerging himself into the tunnels of the Curran space. Sobelle is a clown at heart and is very funny and his timing with the audience and space is brilliant.
THE OBJECT LESSON is directed by David Neumann, a choreographer with an amazing history in experimental theater, the performance is divided into movements that try to highlight Sobelle's skillfulness as a performer. A talent who trained in physical theater, Sobelle is also an illusionist, a clown and a movement artist able to be graceful on ice skates while chopping a salad with his blades. One of my favorite bits, he moves around the crowded space to flirt an audience member, and creates a chandelier dinner. He prepares the salad while he dances on the dinner table - Popcorn snow drops from above and the event is perfect.
Sobelle climbs the upper levels of his set to locate memories and objects that set off his mini monologues. His movements have a Chaplin like grace but the fun of Laurel and Hardy. "The Object Lesson" has the rhythm of an informal show-and-tell that goes deep inside the performer and takes us with him. As you sit in the maze of boxes and treasures you can call this a ballet of time passing.
In the final act of his search and digging through memories he pulls out a traffic light. He lets the light speak for itself as it changes from red, to green to yellow - It is an important part of the performance and its significance in the passing of time. There are moments like this, as he lets the show take a huge breath, and I could see some looking at their watches. The final brilliance to the piece, Sobelle brings out a box that takes us to a far magical corner of his search. Similar to a clown pulling colorful scarfs from his pockets than never end, Sobelle pulls a distant life a root to end his journey. It is a brilliant evening and the perfect space to see this performance - on stage with the actor at the Curran Theatre.
Its does close this weekend - Do your best to catch it, and follow the rest of the series at the CURRAN UNDER CONSTRUCTION - more info below -
Under Construction series
at the Curran Theatre Presents
THE OBJECT LESSON
with Geoff Sobelle
Directed by David Neumann
Curran:, 445 Geary St., San Francisco.
Tickets are $25-$50. Running time 90 min