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.