Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mr. Spock Encounters Vincent Van Gogh

Theo Van Gogh enters the crowded room, battered suitcase in hand, dips his head towards the invited guests, smiles shyly. He walks slowly to a raised stage and lifts the suitcase onto an empty table.  His back to the audience, he pauses, breathes deeply, then turns around.

"Thank you for coming," he says.

As two of Theo's "invited" guests to the Symphony Space performance of Vincent, Drew and I were curious.  Not nearly as curious, however, as the fictional Parisians in Leonard Nimoy's play, who assembled a week after Vincent Van Gogh's death in 1890.  They came to hear Theo's personal stories of his brother, beyond the whispers of suicide and madness.

We came for the play and for the playwright.

Leonard Nimoy would appear after the show to discuss his play and answer questions.  We had seen him on screen in Star Trek Into Darkness last week, in Star Trek (2009), in the six movies following the original TV series, and all three of its seasons when we were in grades 6-8.  We couldn't miss the opportunity to see Mr. Spock in person!

Initially, the play was secondary to the celebrity.  But, as the  lights dimmed and Jean-Michel Richaud, who played Theo, walked down the aisle with his suitcase, we were quickly drawn into his story.  Theo explained that at his brother's funeral, he could not speak; words would not come.  He begged us for a second chance, another opportunity to tell about his brother.  So, we listened.

Theo rummaged through the suitcase, selected letter after letter sent to him by Vincent, and read.  He unrolled canvases of Vincent's paintings, invited us to see the color, the life, the creativity. Sunflowers, Irises, Starry Night, Wheat Field with Crows, Bedroom in Arles, and on and on.  In his one-man performance, Richaud became Theo for an hour, and we experienced Vincent through his own words and his brother's love.

As the ovation for the actor diminished, Laura Kaminsky of Symphony Space introduced Leonard Nimoy and invited Richaud, along with Paul Stein, the director, to join her on stage.

I have to admit that I was celebrity-struck, three rows away from a man who created such an iconic character in our culture.  The man who gives new meaning to the word "illogical," cripples his victims by a pinch on the neck, and with his fingers spread in a perfect V, urges us to  "Live Long and Prosper."

At 82, Leonard Nimoy is heeding his own directive.  May we boldly follow.              



  1. How exciting! You find the most interesting things to see and do here in NYC. Does he still have the same deep voice?

  2. The play sounds fascinating! And what fun that you got to hear Spock talk all about his creative process.

  3. That clearly is one of the great delights in living in the "big city." You are lured by the celebrity, but end up enjoying the "bonus" event. I think one-person shows can be stunning. We saw Lily Tomlin in San Francisco. Magical moment after magical moment. Indeed . . . live long and prosper with the arts. (And, given when you first watched "Star Trek," I hadn't realized you were such a youngster!!!!

  4. You make NY so warm, personal and enriching, I forget about the noise and traffic! Thought you might like to know about the audio book "The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh", available for download free here:
    I particularly enjoy the reader Cooper Leith, who sounds exactly as I suspect van Gogh would sound.

    1. Thank you, Michele - for the compliment and the link! I will definitely download and listen. The play was so informative and touching. I look forward to listening to the book.


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