‘The Object Lesson’ is a look at the objects in our lives

Have you ever moved? If you have, “The Object Lesson,” will hit you hard with memories good and bad. Geoff Sobelle’s show is part scenic installation (by Steven Dufala) and part one-man performance. This is the kind of theater where the audience can become part of the installation and theatrics.

First, this is theater for a person who is a bit adventurous, who doesn’t necessarily expect to sit in the anonymous dark on the other side of the action and who isn’t particularly attached to the comfort of cushy chairs. The fourth wall is broken here and the scenic installation makes this clear. Be prepared. Travel light. Dresses and high heels might not be advisable. You might want a cushion to sit on.

When the audience is allowed on to the set, you have many choices. You will be surrounded by boxes including what seems like an impossible wall of brown boxes piled nearly to the ceiling. This is the packing hell of a house move, but still Sobelle makes it fun. You can open the boxes and make discoveries. As far as I can tell, there were no boxtrolls in the whole place.  There was a gong, a triangle, a few wigs, video cameras and hats. Some boxes are marked but empty. For those who are old enough to remember library card catalogs, do check the one out at very back of the stage. You can’t miss it. Read the label and open and see what’s inside.

There are a few actual over-stuffed seating options–chairs, sofas and settees. There’s even a rocking chair. Other seating options are boxes marked as seating and then there’s the floor. Remember, you’re going to be sitting down for 90 minutes so if you want to enjoy and wander (as opposed to staking out a sofa at the get-go), then bring a cushion.

What happens on stage is both a study of groups and some performance art. Director David Neumann keeps the show flowing although much of what happens must be Sobelle tuning into each audience. There is no real plot. You’ll realize soon enough when it is time to find a seat and settle down. Then you’ll realize some of the people wandering around were people minders and one other was the actual performer. What happens should come as a surprise, but it does involve phones, recordings, music, lighting and audience participation. Sobelle does have a different take on a romantic dinner and just how to prepare chopped salad.

This is definitely an experience that one should arrive early to be part of and being late will mean missing getting to know the set and your fellow audience members. At the end of the evening, I reflected how my first move barely required a car. My big possessions were a sewing machine and a bicycle. Now, one carload or even one truckload wouldn’t be enough to move all the stuff I’ve acquired. And I see my older relatives trying to trim down their excess load of stuff. It is time to start thinking and perhaps it is never too early.

Tickets for “The Object Lesson” are available at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, the CTG box office located at the Ahmanson Theatre, at the Kirk Douglas Theatre box office starting two hours before curtain or by calling (213) 628-2772. The Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. This play is not appropriate for children 6 and under who might fidget and not be able to stay still.

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