Vincent Van Gogh, 'The Seine Bridge at Asnieres,' 1887. | Credit: Courtesy

Art history slide lectures were never like this! Vincent, the one-person show written by Leonard Nimoy, got a terrific production on Sunday, March 20, thanks to the performance of Charles Pasternak and direction by Ensemble Theatre Company’s Brian McDonald. The audience for this sold-out matinee gave Pasternak their undivided attention for the duration of the show’s 70 minutes. The script, which synchronizes with a cascade of projected images derived from the paintings and drawings of Vincent Van Gogh, puts the actor in the role of the artist’s brother, Theo. Unable to find words to express his grief at the time of Vincent’s funeral, Theo speaks this candid, polyphonic monologue as a way to recall and mourn his dead brother. Although he never completely abandons the perspective of Theo, there are plenty of opportunities for the actor to work in other voices, including Vincent’s own.

It’s a great story, full of insight into the intense emotional attachments that animated Van Gogh’s life. As each of Vincent’s grand passions takes over, Theo looks on with a mixture of empathy and disbelief. First, Van Gogh believes he has a calling to preach the gospel of Jesus to Belgian mineworkers. Then Vincent develops a savior complex toward a hard-drinking, cigar-smoking prostitute with two children. Finally, he becomes besotted with hero worship for the ruthless Paul Gauguin. In Theo’s telling, it’s Gauguin’s fault that Vincent took a knife to his ear. Vincent satisfies our urge to know more about the artist’s private life without succumbing to the temptation to make overly facile explanations. Charles Pasternak delivers the script’s changes in a warm, fluid performance that’s a model of pacing and clarity. Vincent may not be the last word on its subject, but it is an excellent introduction to some of the critical moments in Van Gogh’s miraculous creative decade.

This edition of ON Culture was originally emailed to subscribers on June 7, 2024. To receive Leslie Dinaberg’s arts newsletter in your inbox on Fridays, sign up at


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