[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre review of Dreamweavers L.A.’s “Vincent” a one-man show by Leonard Nimoy, with Michael Sullivan as Theo and Vincent Van Gogh, and produced and directed by Jeanne Dunphy at El Portal Theatre.
This beautiful and heartbreaking play is based on 500 or more letters between Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo. During Vincent’s tumultuous life, while he developed his artistic genius, he suffered from acute depression and was ultimately diagnosed with a form of epilepsy. His brother, an art dealer, supported him financially for most of his life and encouraged him to keep painting, often asking him to exhibit his work. But Vincent never would and sold only one painting while he was alive. One wonders how his life might have been different if he had, if he had allowed the public to share in his immense talent and see the world through his eyes. The affirmation of success may well have helped his depression and prolonged his life. But there have been plenty of artists who’ve suffered in such ways and often success and accolades don’t help at all.
This play was written by Leonard Nimoy, another beautiful soul, and he performed it on an off for years during his own lifetime and it was then made into a feature film staring Nimoy as Theo and Vincent. To have the opportunity to see it live is a real treat. And even though Mr Nimoy is no longer with us, I am sure he would have been thrilled by actor Michael Sullivan’s truly gifted performance as both brothers.
It is such a tricky thing to do, to play two roles on stage at the same time. Two brothers but with such completely different personalities. Theo, controlled, business like, charming. Vincent, wild, artistic, disconnected by choice from the world of commerce and society. Mr Sullivan flits from role to role with an almost magical ability to morph between them. And this play shows so beautifully the love they had for each other. How deeply Theo respected Vincent as an artist, giving him the space and the years and the financial support he needed so desperately without question and without limits, despite it being a burden on him and his family.
“Vincent” is an utterly bewitching piece of theatre. Based as it is on letters written over many years, giving us a miraculous insight into these wonderful humans and their deep love for each other.
It’s the love that had the most impact on me in fact. Vincent Van Gogh would not have been able to develop his remarkable talent and paint these incredible works of art if not for his brother’s utterly unconditional love. He knew him better than anyone ever would and he loved him deeply. I found that love inspiring. This play lifts the pain Vincent suffered out of the darkness. It offers us a different, sweetly tempered view of a legendary man who for many is still the greatest artist of our times.
This production of “Vincent” is currently on tour, searching for more venues in fact. Such a beautiful story so brilliantly adapted deserves our support and I promise you will be thrilled as I was with this wonderful piece of theatre. It reminds us how privileged we are to have such genius in our midst, if only for a while.