The Object Lesson
Closed 1h 40m
The Object Lesson
69

The Object Lesson NYC Reviews and Tickets

69%
(106 Reviews)
Positive
64%
Mixed
23%
Negative
13%
Members say
Clever, Quirky, Ambitious, Disappointing, Great staging

About the Show

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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Member Reviews (106)

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70
Absorbing, Refreshing, Indulgent, Slow, Confusing

See it if Moments of sheer brilliance combined with banality and incoherence. Fascinating staging for sure, but I left feeling kind of meh.

Don't see it if You need a comfortable seat. My back killed after an hour. Or if you don't like absurdist experimenta theatre,

70
Ambitious, Cliched, Disappointing, Edgy, Indulgent

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.

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

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.

72
Funny, Thought-provoking, Slow, Artistic

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

65
Ambitious, Banal, Disappointing, Indulgent, Quirky

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. Read more

13
Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating, Indulgent, 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. Read more

79
Clever, Delightful, Confusing, Ambitious, Edgy

See it if you enjoy mime, clever use of electronics, illusion and wry comedy

Don't see it if clutter scares you

63
Indulgent, Promises more than it delivers, Fun, in a '60s kind of way

See it if you want to see the kind of fun, weird theatre that was off- and off-off Broadway in the 60s. If you don't feel the need to have meaning.

Don't see it if Fluffy, going-no-where theatre is not for you. Read more

Critic Reviews (35)

Time Out New York
February 9th, 2017

"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."
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Deadline
February 16th, 2017

"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."
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New York Daily News
February 9th, 2017

"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."
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Theatermania
February 9th, 2017

"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."
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Lighting & Sound America
February 10th, 2017

"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."
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Talkin' Broadway
February 9th, 2017

"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."
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TheaterScene.net
February 15th, 2017

"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."
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Theater Pizzazz
February 19th, 2017

"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!"
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Theater Pizzazz
February 14th, 2017

"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."
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CurtainUp
February 9th, 2017

"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."
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Front Row Center
March 3rd, 2017

"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."
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Front Mezz Junkies
February 9th, 2017

"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."
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T
February 9th, 2017

"'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."
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New York Theater
February 9th, 2017

"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."
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The Huffington Post
February 9th, 2017

"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."
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Theater In The Now
February 24th, 2017

“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.”
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Daily Beast
February 9th, 2017

"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."
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DC Metro Theater Arts
February 9th, 2017

"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."
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WNBC
February 9th, 2017

"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."
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TheaterScene.com
February 28th, 2017

"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."
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Epoch Times
February 28th, 2017

"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."
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Act Three - The Reviews
February 16th, 2017

"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."
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T
February 22nd, 2017

"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."
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Paste Magazine
March 1st, 2017

“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.”
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The Modernist Beat
March 5th, 2017

"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."
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The New York Times
November 6th, 2014
For a previous production

"Charming and sobering performance piece...Directed by Neumann, with the spectacular scenic installation designed by Dufala, this cunning show finds universal common ground in one man’s field of detritus. It’s a ruefully, comically sentimental piece that plucks a fleeting connective poetry in the seeming randomness of what we hoard...Scenes sometimes veer into preciousness. But whimsical detours are forgivable...In a bravura finale, Sobelle unpacks a whole cradle-to-grave lifetime."
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Los Angeles Times
September 13th, 2015
For a previous production

"Has its share of memorable moments, to be sure...'The Object Lesson' has the rhythm of an impromptu show-and-tell, with Sobelle hemming and hawing from one section to the next, even though he's no doubt following a script...The lack of a narrative flow is a liability. There are pockets when nothing much seems to be happening but Sobelle aimlessly scurrying...It's only in the final section that 'The Object Lesson' attains a density of surreal meaning."
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BroadwayWorld
May 20th, 2016
For a previous production

"Storytelling that captivates, challenges, entertains, and maybe even changes you...One of the most creative, and pure, works of storytelling you are likely to see in a theater...Some of the vignettes are more successful than others, but I suspect that evaluation will differ with each audience member...I doubt there's anyone who will not marvel at the final twenty minutes; it's truly a wondrous display of art and magic, filled with poignant wisdom."
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Exeunt Magazine
November 9th, 2014
For a previous production

"'The Object Lesson' is instantly recognizable as another inspiring product of the physical theater of the French pedagogue Jacques Lecoq, with whom Sobelle trained, and whose elementals reside in the keen observation of the actor’s environment...Sobelle dexterously assembles a charmingly quick-witted and inventive tale about a life appreciated through its debris."
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S
October 15th, 2015
For a previous production

"A discursive, often very funny journey through what may be one man’s life or the general human condition, using every part of the stage...It’s an odd conglomeration of the brilliant and the not-quite. Much of Sobelle’s work is astonishing, his insights acutely funny, his timing impeccable and his physical execution admirable. Some of the piece seems unfocused, though, and self-indulgently extended...He combines comedy, tragedy and the absurd to masterfully memorable effect."
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S
January 8th, 2016
For a previous production

"Once immersed, you don't realize how thoroughly you are being affected until it's too late. Its initial impact is considerable...That is a charming coup de theatre in itself, but there is more to come. Sobelle motions us to gather round for his finale, an enthralling act of stage magic in which an entire life is unpacked before our astonished eyes...We're left to rummage again, not in the boxes this time, but among our own thoughts and emotions."
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DC Theatre Scene
May 20th, 2016
For a previous production

"A bit of Sobelle’s pacing goes a long way and long stretches of the narrative are given over to some fairly repetitive shuffling about...Some will enjoy the otherworldly experience of basking in the leisurely pace; others may find themselves glancing at the time...Regardless, Sobelle’s antics help our laughs and sympathy to come easily. Even in the long stretches of silence, Sobelle conjures a magician-like ability to convey nuanced emotions through sheer physicality."
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DC Metro Theater Arts
May 20th, 2016
For a previous production

"Sobelle is more than an actor. He’s a magician and clown as well...While the underlying concept of this show is brilliant, its comic timing, at my performance, was sometimes off. While some jokes were perfectly told others went on well past the point where the audience 'gets it.' The silence was sometimes uncomfortable...'The Object Lesson' is a serious performance event, well worth seeing by anyone who cares about the future of theatre. It is full of magic."
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MD Theatre Guide
May 21st, 2016
For a previous production

"At once one of the strangest and yet most heartwarming pieces of theatre I have ever seen. Directed by David Neumann, the show is vivid, imaginative, funny, and slightly uncomfortable. It manages to explore not only human nature and the stories we all carry, but the boundaries of theater as well...It is truly a beautifully evocative, deeply compelling experience, and one I certainly will never forget."
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Columbus Underground
October 29th, 2015
For a previous production

"A witty, touching look at the way we let things build up...But what makes this sing, in addition to Sobelle’s charm and physical prowess, are the surreal, dreamlike details...'The Object Lesson' is a little too long and gets a little bogged down in repetition but it’s a dazzling look at what’s holy, what’s just stuff, how fine that line is, and how hard it is to know when to pare down. It’s a magical piece full of pure joy and classic theatre magic."
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