The Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City is responsible for some of the most exciting and ambitious theatre that I've ever experienced. Nothing that I have seen at the Douglas could quite prepare me for The Object Lesson, the most unusual show that I've ever seen.
The blurb describing The Object Lesson, does not do it justice. However, this show might be impossible to explain. It's an onslaught to all of the senses. There is just no way to prepare for the experience.
I attended the show with my in-laws, all three of us intrigued by the concept. Honestly, I thought that this would be a show attacking the culture of clutter and consumerism. I thought that I would see the show and that it would make me take a hard look at the crap in my house. The Object Lesson touches on these subjects, but it's so much more.
As we waited in the lobby, we were given instructions. As soon as the theatre doors opened, we were told to touch all of the props and mingle. This is not a show for wallflowers, it's highly interactive.
The doors opened and we walked inside. Boxes and junk filled the space, all of the way to the ceiling. The traditional theatre seats had been torn out, replaced with a mix of old furniture and more boxes. Remember Shel Silverstein's poem Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out? We had walked into an episode of Hoarders. It was a marvel.
We quickly noticed that several of the cardboard boxes were labeled with "This is a seat" and they were actually reinforced with wood. We were encouraged to grab a seat anywhere that we could find it, there was no actual stage, and move the boxes to anywhere that we would like. We took our "seats" up the stairs, to have an overview, looking down on where the stage would traditionally sit. We didn't know it at the time, but these were fabulous seats. The action moves around the entire space and rarely was our view blocked.
After securing our spot, I walked around the space, opening boxes and drawers. This was magical and delightful, although it is a contrived environment, it was like having permission to be nosy. I relished it!
I picked up one box to find the interior written with instructions to hand the box to someone who looks nice and say, "Here, I think this is yours". I should have done it, but I chickened out. I did look through an old apothecary chest that had dozens of drawers. One drawer was filled with dolls dresses, another with old buttons, one with a handful of dirt. It was delightful. I had a big grin the whole time, and I could have spent the whole evening just poking around the set. I wish that they had opened the house earlier.
The actor/illusionist/creator of the show, Geoff Sobelle, started his performance by walking into the center of the space and turning on a record player. He walked through the space, opening boxes and unpacking, until he had an entire living room set up. He set the tone for the show immediately, by enlisting the help of audience members, having them carry furniture and passing them boxes. No one was safe for keeping their seat during the entire show, as Sobelle often evicted people from their seats and space to fit the needs of the show.
I don't want to give away any key moments, as the mystery of "where the heck is this thing heading" was a big part of the delight. In a general sense, the heart of the show deals with the objects that we cling to in our lives. Objects that hold powerful memories and emotions, objects that we struggle to give away, objects that we use every day, objects that drive us crazy...how we relate to these inanimate things in our lives. Sobelle balances the poignant moments with heavy doses of comedy and wonder. The last part of the show is incredible, with Sobelle using objects and illusions to tell the story of a man going through his life. It was spell-binding.
The Object Lesson is marvelous, a truly magical and affecting experience. Unforgettable. If you have the opportunity, don't miss it. Did I mention that the show involves salad making with ice skates? That's not even the craziest thing that happens. Intrigued? Buy tickets now!!!