Object lesson: A demonstration of a principle using a material object, which forms the basis of the lesson and is available to be inspected.
—Collins English Dictionary
Geoff Sobelle encourages the entering audience to poke about in the cardboard boxes piled high around the space before they (literally) find their seats. This art/performance installation is activated as Sobelle moves through it, tussling with boxes and following electric wires to find his props—lighted lamps, speakers, furniture, victrola, glasses, shoes, microphones, small electronics, and much more. Eventually he hands out things from one of the boxes for people to pass around and handle. These items recall for him a dark night in a French town years ago, “a little bubble of people having this totally rarefied experience.” It was a tiny event so important that later, in California, when something suddenly jarred that memory, he felt like he was on the other side of time. But soon Sobelle’s attention shifts to articles in other boxes and other vignettes, which include an impromptu, romantic and strangely prepared dinner. Sobelle moves like an actor, a dancer, and a clown in his relaxed yet disciplined performance. The experiences he relates recall Proust. At home afterward I run upstairs for my Swann’s Way: “The memory returns. … The form of things… like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, bear faltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”
THE OBJECT LESSON, the product of a subtle and ingenious mind, rewards audiences open to new approaches to performance. Even as Sobelle locates remembrance in stored away treasures and junk, he subverts the show with shifts in focus and gentle deception. Ordinary comments and phone conversations, taped and later re-purposed, turn on themselves. And although stuff is just stuff unless it cues memory and meaning, this playful and engaging performance is about conjuring and illusion as much as it is about memory. Boxes full of ordinary things may also hold inexplicable magic. [Christ Church Neighborhood House] September 12-15, 2013, fringearts.ticketleap.com/the-object-lesson.