Sunday, August 2, 2015





By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

Where is Proust’s madeleine when you really need it? Geoff Sobelle’s trite exercise in nostalgia, triggered by stuff—old ice skates, wine glasses, fringed lamps, all kinds of uninteresting rubbish, all packed in boxes which reach halfway to the ceiling of the theater’s enormous space. As he unpacks the stuff, he unpacks memories.

We learn the best week of his life was in France when he was twenty; the centerpiece of this recollection was a traffic light, which he then unpacks, plugs in, and then makes us wait through two rounds of red, green, and yellow. Eventually he will unpack a seemingly bottomless box with the paraphernalia of his imagined future when he has become a cardigan-wearing, pill-taking old man.

Most of the show’s ninety minutes is spent in self-indulgent, random and often inaudible doings: audience members examine piles of stuff and then pack it up again. He makes phone calls that are filled with dead space.

He insists we watch while he puts on his socks. Perhaps we were supposed to find all this hilarious or meaningful in some way, but the audience was mostly silent as they struggled to find a sightline so they could see what, if anything, was happening.

Confession: I’ve been a fan of Geoff Sobelle’s for years: his intellectual sophistication combined with his elegant physical clowning made for many excellent shows. So I was unprepared for his one-man show that was merely a tedious exercise in narcissism: the only real idea in The Object Lesson is “Look At Me.” Surprisingly the show has a director, David Neumann, who seems to have exerted no control over The Object Lesson whatsoever.

Sobelle’s early line, “There’s a fine line between vintage and crap” resonates throughout.



Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St. (near 2nd and Market). Tickets $20-25. Through Sept.21. 

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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