Digging through stuff in “The Object Lesson”

Geoff Sobelle contemplates the meaning of "stuff" in "The Object Lesson.  Credit: Geoff Sobelle
Geoff Sobelle contemplates the meaning of “stuff” in “The Object Lesson.
Credit: Geoff Sobelle

One of the late, great George Carlin’s most famous routines skewered our obsession with “stuff,” namely the fact that we refer to our accumulation of things as “stuff” and to other people’s clutter with another, unprintable s-word. According to Geoff Sobelle, that doesn’t just apply to our present-day stuff.

“Archeologists unearthing a really important Etruscan vase are really just digging through somebody else’s trash pile,” Sobelle says. “You might as well be seeing somebody’s wine bottle from two weeks ago in a dumpster. And now that the planet is so overpopulated and we produce so many things, it will be different for future archeologists.”

With that in mind, Sobelle created his first solo show, “The Object Lesson,” as “sort of an archeological dig site of the here and now.” The performance, which premieres this week as part of FringeArts, is a piece of physical theater that lets Sobelle loose on a stage crammed with the detritus of a lifetime.

“I wanted to make a show about people’s relationship to their stuff,” Sobelle explains. “Buying, selling, getting rid of, breaking, losing, finding, trading, storing. In a way, the show is both about meaning and meaninglessness, because what might be meaningful to you is meaningless to me, and vice versa. I find that mysterious and hilarious.”

A Fringe veteran, Sobelle has appeared in several shows with Pig Iron Theatre Company and rainpan 43, his collaboration with actor Trey Lyford. Sobelle was one-third of the ridiculously haired magician trio in last year’s Fringe show “Elephant Room” and played a particularly athletic Hamlet in Lantern Theater Company’s 2009 production. That physicality will now be constrained by a multitude of boxes on the stage of Christ Church Neighborhood House, on a set that Sobelle likens to a massive storage facility. “The thing that was important to me was that you came into a space of potential that was both empty and full at the same time,” he says.

As for undertaking his first solo endeavor, Sobelle says, “I learned a lot about myself during the process. It’s ultimately quite freeing as well.” And of course, after three years of obsessing over things, “I’m dying to get rid of stuff.”

The Object Lesson
Sept. 12-21
Christ Church Neighborhood House
20 N. American St.
$25, 215-413-1318
www.fringearts.com


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