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The Object Lesson

Members say: Clever, Quirky, Ambitious, Disappointing, Slow
69
Critics
66
35 reviews
Members
69
102 reviews
 

Actor-illusionist Geoff Sobelle’s immersive theatrical installation turns New York Theatre Workshop into a storage facility of gargantuan proportion, where audiences are free to roam and poke through the clutter.

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Sobelle transforms this makeshift attic into a space of reflection and wonder as he unpacks our relationship to everyday objects: breaking, buying, finding, fixing, giving, losing, winning, trading, selling, stealing, storing, collecting, cluttering, clearing, packing up, passing on, buried under a world of things. 'The Object Lesson' is a meditation on the stuff we cling to and the crap we leave behind.

 

Cast & Creatives (7)



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Reviews (137)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
66
Avg Score

30
Theatermania

"It's like spending 90 minutes with a self-involved friend as he digs through his storage unit...This is certainly a worthwhile story, but Sobelle consistently chooses the most uninteresting ways to tell it. His interactions with the audience feel more labored than charming...Execution often feels like an afterthought in Neumann's production...The only feeling 'The Object Lesson' is able to deliver is confusion chased by a sincere hope that it will end quickly." Full Review

95
Time Out New York

"The environment installed by Steven Dufala at New York Theatre Workshop for performer Geoff Sobelle and director David Neumann’s astonishing and revelatory 'The Object Lesson' is one epic mausoleum...If you didn’t catch this startlingly original show when it premiered at BAM three years ago, treat yourself to this limited run...It's best seen without advance information...What exactly is the lesson here? We live, we die, we leave garbage behind. But to make art from trash: That’s real magic." Full Review

85
New York Theater

"There are moments, jerry-rigged with makeshift lighting and some surprise stagecraft, that are both funny and, quite improbably, beautiful. It feels like the kind of show designed to give bragging rights to aficionados of way-out theater such as myself. But it also inspires a contemplation of the meaning of objects in our lives, how an evocative old box of memorabilia–even if not your own–can provoke a swift stream of memories." Full Review

75
Lighting & Sound America

"In his best moments, Sobelle can hold his own with such New Vaudevillians as Bill Irwin and David Shiner...The overall theme remains utterly elusive: Sobelle appears to be saying something about the millions of objects that fill our lives–but what? Then again, even when 'The Object Lesson' wanders, Sobelle's presence casts a powerful spell...'The Object Lesson' is far from perfect, but, for most of us, it's a fine introduction to an artist who isn't quite like anyone you've ever seen." Full Review

80
Front Row Center

"We are caught in the finest of nets, placed exactly in the center of Sobelle’s magic spell. Delighted to be so...Sobelle leads us on what appears to be a random journey. Part clown, part jester, part trickster, he sails from box to box...The performance concludes with one of the b-e-s-t magic tricks I have ever seen...Unfortunately, it is also one of the l-o-n-g-e-s-t tricks I have ever seen...Get a ticket for this limited run and sit as high up as you can–literally and figuratively." Full Review

25
The Huffington Post

"Sobelle, ostensibly known for award-winning installations, continues spinning sentences that are notable for adding up to nothing much. In response, the audience occasionally laughs. Otherwise, the attendees are polite throughout...Early on, Sobelle dubs the undertaking a 'bulls**t enterprise.' Let’s give him that final word on one of the most impoverished theater pieces by which this reviewer has ever been assaulted." Full Review

70
Talkin' Broadway

"Sobelle, an eminently likable everyman type, is the only constant, and though his character comes across as no less confused than you, he has an indomitable spirit that explains why he—and we—should never give up the things that make us most who we are...If the evening's finale were constructed off of this idea, it would be a glimmering little gem...Sadly, that's not where Sobelle goes...Sobelle wraps up 'Object Lesson' by making a big mess of the whole darn, otherwise brilliant, thing." Full Review

60
Deadline

"Some of the tale-telling involves playful effects, like recording monologue that becomes, in the replay, a dialogue leading to unexpected revelations. Too much of it goes nowhere; the show’s languors outweigh the sharper observations. But then there’s an ending that offers a kind of shocking payoff, as Sobelle executes a variation on the theme of clowns emerging from a tiny car...'Object Lesson' seems overblown even in this modest space. And yet I won’t soon forget those last 15 minutes." Full Review

45
New York Daily News

"At various times, the production goes slowly, stops dead and, occasionally, motors along. At best it’s a weird, one-of-a-kind work about life’s fruitful and fruitless connections and collections...That’s fertile territory, but the show...is disjointed and fails to make much of a point. It does remind that we have too much stuff and that we form deep-rooted attachments. Still, this 'Lesson' doesn’t have an ending. It needs one." Full Review

70
Front Mezz Junkies

"A valiant attempt of creating something unique. Sometimes the reminiscing and ‘play’ seem drawn out and repetitive...Sobelle imbues a humanity and sincerity that is lovely and engaging...It was poetic for about the first third, but then, as with most of the vignettes, the charm starts to wear off...There are moments of humor and wit along side other tidbits of emotional engagement, but spaces so dead and empty that it's hard to stay connected." Full Review

75
Theatre Reviews Limited

"'The Object Lesson' is an important exercise and worth the visit...The impact of Geoff Sobelle’s immersive experience is sometimes diminished by the nature of the piece itself – something both Mr. Sobelle and director David Neumann should continue to take into consideration. No matter where audience members sit, there are vignettes of 'The Object Lesson' that simply cannot be observed." Full Review

90
Theater In The Now

“An extraordinary work of art…Through illusion, clowning, and storytelling, the installation piece becomes a jungle gym of wonderment…Sobelle’s innate skills for storytelling are on display here…Sobelle’s narratives are captivating…There are certain beats that drag on a bit too long…The staging is intricate and precise. Every moment is well calculated…’The Object Lesson’ is continuing to remind audiences the diversity when it comes to how theater can be made and told.” Full Review

90
TheaterScene.net

"Illusionist/actor Geoff Sobelle's show is a combination of happening, art installation, and a meditation on the role objects have in our lives. Using audience participation, objects both hidden and seen, and magical illusion, Sobelle forces us to examine our relationship to objects and how they ultimately define us...For those willing to go with the flow and give themselves up to Sobelle's droll reflection, self-examination and visual theatrics, the evening is fascinating and rewarding." Full Review

80
WNBC

"Sobelle is inclined to ponder the weight and meaning of the possessions that come into our lives and how they form some unifying thread that helps define us...We're left with a sense of how our stuff interplays with our spiritual lives, the meanings we impart on inanimate objects. Phone conversations are little wisps that vanish into the ether, out of our grasp. But plastic lobsters are forever." Full Review

75
Theater Pizzazz

"For everyone who stores, keeps, won’t let go of, and makes excuses for items that no longer have any redeeming value (nostalgia or otherwise) – this one’s for you!... This immersive, more to the point, big question mark of a production, gives Sobelle a platform as a theater artist and teacher, a place to practice the art of sublime ridiculous in his conquest of seeing the absurd live and grow...Be prepared to witness the most unusual salad making technique ever seen...anywhere!" Full Review

15
Act Three - The Reviews

"There is only a vague reference to what I understand is the message behind the play - memories, keeping things, packing them up and where they end up. The entire evening seems to be a metaphor for the concept. The only thing is - nobody bothered to tell us...If that were not bad enough, we all sat on wooden/cardboard boxes for 100 minutes of this torture." Full Review

70
CurtainUp

"Happily, Sobelle knows his way in and around the myriad of boxes, crates, and stuff that sparks his character's semi-introspective narrative-propelled journey...Getting a coherent drift of his character is not an easy task, but we are committed by our sheer curiosity about what may come next...Not exactly boring but certainly testy in its progression, his unhurried narrative gets some nice bumps with an unexpected discovery." Full Review

70
TheaterScene.com

"Sobelle extracts what he tells us are mementos...It’s amusing if not very compelling. But things become somewhat more coherent as a tale of romance takes shape...The sequence wins Sobelle a bounty of audience good will, enough to carry him through to the end of an overly extended finale...Even as the piece has us contemplate the meaning of the ephemera that life and living make us collect, it also impresses as performance art and installation." Full Review

90
DC Metro Theater Arts

"It’s worth its weight in gold...At first slow, tentative, and pensive, then increasingly fast, and finally frenetic, Sobelle takes us through a sequence of impeccably timed, perceptive, and witty remembrances and reenactments related to the seemingly endless array of possessions he pulls out...Funny and magical, affecting and poignant, like life itself, so go and savor every second of it before its limited run is over." Full Review

85
Daily Beast

"Brilliant and strange...Love, and its loss, seems to be the linking theme...In the play’s final stretch, Sobelle distills the story of a life from an apparently bottomless box...This segment is the most cohesive, and your pleasure in the play will be dictated by how patient you are with the lack of a coherent story...Here, laid out for us, are his character’s memories, and the genius of 'The Object Lesson' is how skillfully he vividly brings them to life to tweak our own memories." Full Review

80
Epoch Times

"The actor clearly wants the audience to have a communal experience with him...What the character fails to see is that personal memories don’t always translate well when people haven’t been through the same events...This quibble aside, 'Object Lesson' is quite enjoyable and refreshingly different from anything else on the NY theatrical scene this season. Sobelle turns in a tour-de-force performance as he keeps the audience guessing throughout a not always linear but often insightful journey." Full Review

60
Theater Life

"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...The highlight and most inventive is when Sobelle in ice skates prepares dinner for an audience member...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." Full Review

20
Paste Magazine

“This cluttered and confusing performance art/installation piece did not inspire anxiety in me. Instead, I merely felt bored…Sobelle appears, and the show presumably begins. I say ‘presumably’ because the show is so confusing and unstructured that I’m not even sure it was a show...There is no narrative thread connecting these vignettes, nor is there an underlying theme or message to be found, resulting in an unsatisfying and extremely frustrating experience.” Full Review

75
The Modernist Beat

"More a meditation on the place of things in our lives rather than a piece with a clear linear narrative arc. Which is fine. Different can be good...His training at École Jacques Lecoq in Paris was very much on display, and it served the performer and his construct well...The ending, however, was something of a let down. The final vignette really did not provide a satisfying coda...That point of criticism aside, 'The Object Lesson' is very much a worthwhile evening of theatre." Full Review

15
Theater Pizzazz

"Slow, tedious, and boring. At 100 minutes, it feels like an endless, pretentious piece of claptrap...It takes Sobelle so long to get his ideas across that one loses interest long before each eventual teeny, tiny example of his theme is presented...Most of the audience must sit on boxes for the entire length of the play, so one suspects that the standing ovation at the end is as much a result of a desire to get up off the boxes as soon as possible, as it is for the approval of the play." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
69
Avg Score

60
Ambitious, Quirky, Disappointing, Slow, Great set

See it if Amazing set to explore and immerse yourself in. Some humorous moments within the show. Neat concept.

Don't see it if need a more concrete narrative. The show meanders thru stories using objects as lessons but execution lacks power and loses momentum fast.

70
Ambitious, Quirky

See it if non-traditional narrative, space, and experiences are your jam.

Don't see it if TRADITIONAL proscenium theater is your jam.

95
Absorbing, Must see, Refreshing, Great writing, Unique

See it if you like immersive/audience-participation shows. And if you like shows that explore different types of entertainment/art

Don't see it if you want a typical play.

77
Clever, Masterful, Quirky

See it if you want to experience a poignant, evocative & reflective show that uses magic in startling & haunting ways

Don't see it if you need legible narrative; if you sitting on a box isn't your thing

77
Ambitious, Delightful, Intelligent, Quirky, Slow

See it if You want to experience a very unusual " performance ". Some people might find it banal and self centered, I found it very poetic

Don't see it if You go to the theater just to be " entertained " and no to be " provoked " and " surprised ". Lovers of traditional theater better stay away

79
Clever, Edgy, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You want a unique theater experience. One man climbs the box lined walls in a horder's nightmare space and tells stories, finds treasures.

Don't see it if You can't tolerate clutter & lots of people sitting all over the place on top of boxes, on the floor; feels a little like a lunatic assylum.

72
Funny, Artistic, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if you like contemporary art installations. This is similar to something you might find at the New Museum with an added layer of performance.

Don't see it if you want to see traditional theater with a clear narrative, you get frustrated by bad sight lines depending on where action is happening

85
Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Quirky, Confusing

See it if You are open minded, playful, polite and interested in participating in an experience that involves ideas of object memory and perminance

Don't see it if You need to be comfortable and don't want to have to move around to see things or if you want to see a traditional play

73
Ambitious, Quirky, Refreshing, Great staging, Immersive

See it if you enjoy the thrill of a bit of audience participation. The theatre experience is relatively immersive.

Don't see it if non-traditional theatre experiences make you uncomfortable. Audience members should be okay with sitting on the floor or being moved around.

70
Ambitious, Edgy, Indulgent, Disappointing, Cliched

See it if you enjoy performance art different from anything you have seen before. The conversion of the theater is astounding. Come early to explore!

Don't see it if you expect a plot instead of unrelated segments. Like opening the boxes it is more anticipation then content. Possible themes are up to you.

76
Clever, Enchanting, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy magic and immersive theatre! It's a great show with a great leading man bringing a very wonderful project to NYTW!

Don't see it if You mind sitting on a box, and have to move about a space. Your focus constantly changes, but you really see a man and his link to objects!

80
Clever, Enchanting, Exquisite, Thought-provoking, Masterful

See it if you like immersive theatre. This piece is a new form of its genre and you shouldn't miss.

Don't see it if you feel claustrophobic about space.

79
Ambitious, Clever, Dizzying, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You love interactive theatre, performance art, storytelling, and/or clowning that has deeper meaning.

Don't see it if You prefer to sit in a seat (not on a box) and see a play with a plot. This is inventive storytelling with props and audience participation.

65
Ambitious, Quirky, Indulgent, Banal, Disappointing

See it if you're willing to sit through 90 minutes of mediocrity to say that you were in the room for the latest immersive "happening."

Don't see it if you're hoping to learn something new or be emotionally moved.

Also Sobelle is a little smug and a little smarmy, and I just didn't warm t... Read more Read less

75
Dizzying, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if you want to be reminded that we are here for only a brief moment and we don't need all this stuff.

Don't see it if you are claustrophobic and have closets to clean out.

79
Clever, Refreshing

See it if You can get past a First 1/2 hr that meanders aimlessly...weak, then brilliant and original.

Don't see it if You want plot...this is performance art

80
Refreshing, Confusing, Enchanting at moments, Occasionally boring, Sometimes joyous

See it if You love great clowning, transformed theatrical spaces, existential pontificating.

Don't see it if You have a bad back.

26
Disappointing, Insipid, Overrated

See it if No reason to see it. This self-indulgent show was unbearable. No plot, no enotional involvement, just junk. lowest score of my reviews.

Don't see it if you enjoy theater. I really don't understand what the hoopla is about with this show and I consider myself a savvy theater goer.

75
Delightful, Quirky, Great staging

See it if Still wrapping my head around it, but I enjoyed it.

Don't see it if You are looking for narrative, structure, or character. The seating is tough on the back.

90
Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Quite different

See it if you're game for a different kind of theater experience that is part whimsical, humorous and thought provoking.

Don't see it if you like your theater by the book, are an unfriendly sort and really do not want to think about the objects in your life.

93
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Must see, Great staging

See it if you want to see something really different and very, very clever. The closing sequence is among the most amazing effects I have ever seen.

Don't see it if you are looking for a linear theatre piece with a plot, if you want to sit in a comfortable seat, or if you don't like immersion pieces.

13
Indulgent, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating, Overrated

See it if You want to sit on uncomfortable seats in a fire trap while watching someone make insipid comments about crap taken out of boxes.

Don't see it if This was the most self-indulgent piece of garbage I've ever seen. It was trying to persuade us that he had something to say; he didn't.

Also Really, I do not understand why the critics drooled over this. Sobelle... Read more Read less

3
Awful, Horrible, Waste of time and money

See it if you like sitting on a cardboard box for 100 minutes.

Don't see it if you have something better to do like cleaning your apartment or getting root canal work done.

Also I see no humor in putting a box on a patron's head or watching someone... Read more Read less

55
Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Disappointing, Overrated

See it if You like interactive theater and like to imbue the play with meaning

Don't see it if You don't enjoy quiet moments or prefer a play on a proscenium stage.

41
Quirky, Indulgent, Confusing, Excruciating, Slow

See it if If you like shows that make use of recordings and electronic assistance or if you like quirky shows with no plot. I am not its audience.

Don't see it if If you like a plot or something that has at least a little forward momentum. If you prefer a more conventional style of production.