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Strokes ofgenius (stage review)

Sometimes art surpasses life.

“Vincent” is the one-man play by Leonard Nimoy based in large part upon the letters Vincent Van Gogh and his brother, Theo, wrote to each other. In its run at the Court Theater, it is the impeccably told and exquisitely acted “portrait” of an artist who lived life in charcoal grays and painted a world of sunlight and possibilities.

The play is structured as Theo’s second chance at a funereal eulogy for Vincent, and the loving brother reveals Vincent with clear eyes and a passion against the world that so misunderstood the artist and his art.

Sam Lovett lives, more than acts, the roles of Theo and Vincent. He quickly and imperceptibly switches between the characters, with distinctions that are physical and emotional but never distracting. As Theo, he pleads the case for his brother’s sanity with dignity and command. As Vincent, his voice is gravelly, his jaw juts, his eyes are manic, he shifts from foot to foot. Lovett’s brothers never lose their passion for their goals — Vincent’s “to accomplish noble things for mankind” and Theo’s to reveal Vincent to the world.

Director Cynthia Parks creates a seamless, timeless performance that is subtle, tasteful and visually striking. Her set design makes the background as unobtrusive yet essential as that of any great portrait.

Nimoy tells the story in bold strokes and tiny details, in metaphors of emerging from darkness, in references to the harshness of the commercial art world, in examples of man’s inhumanity to those who are “different.”

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His Theo describes Vincent as a lover of God, of love and of art. Vincent submerged himself in all three, and in his mind he failed at all three. The church rejected him, women scoffed at him and during his lifetime he sold a single painting — for 400 Francs. His only success, to his knowledge, was in suicide.

Sometimes art spites life.

“Vincent” appears through Feb. 21, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m., at the Court Theater, 722 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood. Tel. 323-660-8587.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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