Wilderowens and I recently had the opportunity to see Leonard Nimoy’s Vincent at the Theatre at St. Clemens. You heard correctly. Spock wrote a play about the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh told to us though the eyes of his brother, Theo.
Vincent is a one-man play, and when performing, it’s vital the actor has the ability to rely entirely on themselves to bring the play to life. There is no one else to play off of or take cues from. Unfortunately, James Briggs, who played Theo, was unable to do so. It's not that he was bad, but he was emotionally inconsistent. He told a good story but had difficulty conveying genuine emotion. Briggs did anger well, but when it came to anything else, he fell flat. There were struggles with sarcasm and asides, and this led to some of the humor of the play getting lost.
Also, I don't know if it was Briggs or the direction of Dr. Brant Pope, but when Theo moved, he didn’t come across as moving with a sense of purpose; it felt more like moving for the sake of moving. Theo read several letters Vincent wrote, and sometimes they were read out loud by Theo, other times it was a recording. It didn’t make sense how or why each was chosen, but the constant reading of the letters appeared to tire Briggs out. He rarely changed his voice while reading, and sometimes, it was a little hard to differentiate between Vincent's voice and Theo's. It all sounded like Theo. Maybe that was the intention, but if so, it wasn't defined strongly enough for that to clearly come across.
As with the acting, the technical aspects of the production was also uneven. The lighting, in particular, was confusing and at times, distracting. It seemed like the lighting was changing for the purpose of changing and not because there was a reason. It rarely felt as if it were setting a mood, and a few times, it appeared to change to signal the end of a scene, but the way Vincent is written, there was no need for that. Briggs never left the stage, nor were there any set changes.
But that’s not to say it was all bad. The set was lovely. It fit perfectly for the space. Theo’s costume was on point. There’s a little moment at the end, where Theo put on a hat, and it was beautiful, because all of the stage elements came together and created a lovely picture.
The most creative part of the whole show was the use of visual media. During the entire play, Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings were projected, often to help tell the story, and in one moment, Briggs stood silently as the music swells, and we were treated to a selection of Van Gogh’s work. It was very touching.
Overall, I was disappointed in this production, but I am so glad I saw it. Not only did I learn more about Van Gogh, but I got to see and experience Leonard Nimoy is a completely different way. He was a gifted playwright and a true artist. It’s a shame I didn’t find this out until now, and it’s a shame his life as an artist isn’t appreciated more. If you ever get an opportunity to see Vincent, take it. It’s worth it.