Sep 28-Oct 14, 2007
Las Cruces actor Josh Shakra, in a highly entertaining tour-de-force, brings to life the relationship between Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh and his brother, Theodorus ("Theo"), playing both roles, in "Vincent," a one-man show opening Friday, September 28, 2007 at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Downtown Mall, in Las Cruces. "Vincent" was written by Leonard Nimoy and is directed for the Black Box's "No Strings Theatre Company" by Artistic Director Ceil Herman. The set and lighting were designed by Peter Herman. Costumes are by Jeanne Luper.
The play is drawn from more than 500 letters written between Vincent and Theo from August 1852 until Vincent's death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in July 1890. The letters show Vincent's bouts with madness, his religious mania and his passion for light and color. They also give life to Theo's pride, anger, sorrow, joy and envy as he reflects on the brilliance and the tragedy of his older brother's life and his place in it as confidant, champion and financial supporter. A successful art dealer, Theo provided financial support for Vincent throughout his adult life and was with him during the final moments of his life. The two brothers were re-buried side-by-side at the Auvers-sur-Oise cemetery in April 1914.
One of the most famous artists in history, Van Gogh produced more than 850 paintings in his short life and was particularly prolific in his final few months. He is also well remembered because he cut off the lobe of his left ear on Christmas Eve 1888 after a violent argument with artist Paul Gauguin. "Vincent" is, in fact, written by another artist famous for his ears, Nimoy, who played "Mr. Spock" on the original "Star Trek" television series. He wrote the play in 1978.
Shakra was previously seen as Vincent Van Gogh in New Mexico State University Theatre Arts Department's production of "Vincent at Brixton" however, the play at the Black Box Theatre is completely different. He appeared as Nikos in "Big Love" at Black Box Theatre earlier this year. He will play Marley in "A Christmas Carol" at NMSU later this year.
|Theo & Vincent Van Gogh|
|Light Board Operator|
|Scenic And Lighting Designer|
|Sound Board Operator|
One-man show has 'split' personality
- By Shannon Bell, NMSU Roundup Arts Editor, NMSU Roundup
One-man show" can be quite a daunting set of words. Accompanying terms that come to mind are "sleep," "boredom" and "scary." But with an extremely competent actor, a creative director and an able production crew, the Black Box Theater's "Vincent" brings the "one-man show" to a whole new level.
The play is a portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh through the eyes of his brother, Theo. Leonard Nimoy, of "Mr. Spock" fame, wrote and performed the show when it debuted in 1978.
While the show is a one-man production, there are two characters portrayed by a single actor. The story is told by Theo, and Vincent's dialogue comes in letters and "flashbacks," in which the actor transitions between the characters.
The show stars NMSU alum Josh Shakra, who is revisiting the role of Vincent, as he played the same character in the American Southwest Theater Company production of "Vincent in Brixton" this spring. While the ASTC show focused on the artist in one part of his life, "Vincent" is more of a biographical overview, with third-party insights from Theo.
It can't be easy to move back and forth between multiple characters, but Shakra moves smoothly between the two brothers with subtle elements to distinguish the different roles. The actor holds attention well, playing the emotion intensely. Dry eyes in the audience are few and far between.
Theo announces in the first few minutes his brother has recently died, and begins the story of Vincent's life through recollections and letters between the two brothers. Theo speaks fondly of his brother, and it's apparent he may often have been the only sympathetic being in Vincent's tortured existence.
The plot touches on the artist's romantic escapades, which happened on a seemingly trial-and-error basis (mostly error). The story portrays Vincent's religious beliefs and his eventual journey into a frenzied state of mind, which the doctors attributed to epilepsy. Theo never commits belief in his brother's insanity.
The playbill notes Theo's death from syphilis was only six months following Vincent's passing. With that in mind, the emotional level of the play becomes even heavier, and Shakra's performance is heartbreaking.
There is plenty on stage to hold audience attention, as director Ceil Herman and the production crew have created a warm space for Theo and Vincent. Front and center sits a large easel with a screen on which Van Gogh paintings and images of people featured in the storyline are projected throughout the show. Props are aplenty and help set the mood and time period while aiding Shakra's storytelling.
The monologue ventures into dense territory at times and could prove a less than perfect experience for those faint of theater heart. But a little appreciation can go a long way and Shakra's performance picks up the rest.
History comes alive at the Black Box
'Vincent' tells tragic Van Gogh tale from brother's perspective
- By Joel Courtney, Las Cruces Bulletin
"Vincent," by Leonard Nimoy and directed by Ceil Herman, is showing at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Downtown Mall, through Oct. 14
"Vincent" is a one-man show that tells the introspective tale of the renowned Vincent Van Gogh through the eyes of his brother Theo. Last year, the Black Box Theatre offered "Woman Before a Glass," a one-woman show that told the story of the oft-misunderstood Peggy Guggenheim, and this performance beautifully upholds a new tradition of one-man shows that offer a glimpse into the maddening world of art. At the same time that "Vincent" gives audiences an opportunity to glimpse inside a troubled, yet creative mind, the story also serves as a history lesson.
Little anecdotes about the life of Vincent Van Gogh, such as the removal of his earlobe before gifting it to a "girlfriend," are clarified and put into context.
Sadly, Theo tells the story of his brother after returning from Vincent's funeral, where he was unable to speak any kind words in defense or in honor of Vincent's misunderstood genius.
Theo not only served as a confidant for the tortured mind of Vincent, but also as gallery representative, financial backer and emissary to the mainstream world of art.
Much of the communication from Vincent is in the form of letters to Theo, to which Theo responds to the audience quite candidly. It is quite obvious that supporting Vincent was difficult and at times quite painful, but Theo felt a duty not only to his brother, but also to the great talent that lay within Vincent.
I often find myself drawn more to comedy than tragedy and drama because of the difficulty in performing a dramatic piece well. Drama must connect to the audience at a relatable level, and "Vincent" keys in directly to the pain that comes with love and a dysfunctional family, a theme that is not lost in these modern days.
Josh Shakra, who also portrayed the famous Van Gogh in last year's production of "Vincent in Brixton" by the American Southwest Theatre Company, leads the show artfully.
Shakra does the seemingly impossible, shifting effortlessly between the separate personalities of the Van Gogh brothers, as well as shifting between the manic/depressive moods of Vincent. Although one would assume that finding the distinction between which brother Shakra is playing would be difficult at times, he manages to distinguish their uniqueness with little more than a change of vocal tone and inflection.
Most impressive about Shakra was the emotion he pulled upon for Theo's final remembrance of Vincent. The anguish of knowing that his brother is gone and that his genius will be honored for eternity in death while he was mocked and ridiculed in life, pulled forward the emotions anyone may have about a misunderstood loved one.
To help emphasize the moments of Theo's story, "Vincent" is accompanied by slide projections of Van Gogh's work displayed for the audience. The slides are shown in a chronological progression, allowing the audience to see the world through Vincent's eyes as the story moves along, as well as showing the progression of his artistic ability.
"Vincent" is clearly a powerful piece, and Shakra obviously has a deep respect for the characters he portrays. It is a must see for any history buffs or those that love the work of Vincent Van Gogh. I will never look at his work without taking to heart the pain he felt and the good he tried to do.
No seating plan has been posted.
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