>>>>>EAR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW
is a play about Van Gogh, an artist famous for having cut off his own
ear. It is written, curiously enough, by Leonard Nimoy, an actor noted
for his pointy prosthetic ears (they'd probably grow back if you cut them
off). The play had a successful run on Broadway in the early eighties,
starring Nimoy himself. This production of the one-man show features Jim
Jarrett, a Hawaii-based actor who has, according to the programme, dedicated
himself to a "journey towards artistic integrity."
begins in a Parisian lecture hall, a week after Vincent's death. The audience
is a crowd of "artists, friends, anyone" to whom Vincent's brother
Theo is about to read his eulogy. Through flashbacks and letters, he uncovers
the story of a man who, despite his immense talent, only sold one of his
paintings during his lifetime. Photos and slides of his works flash across
the back wall, heightening the sense of documentary.
In a show
of this nature, the solo performer is of paramount importance. And Jarrett
is, well, odd. Actually, "odd" doesn't begin to describe the
barrage of facial tics and mannerisms he comes equipped with. A transcript
of his performance would read like Beckett: "My brother [pause, twitch]
was [blink once] a lover [pause, grin at audience] of God [stare at undefined
spot near lighting bar]." He is even more unsettling when he reads
Vincent's letters in voiceover. His recorded voice sounds electronically
slowed down - sticky and dark, like the devil speaking in 'The Exorcist'.
>>'the solo performer is of paramount importance, and Jarrett
is, well, odd.'
This is distracting enough in the early part of the play, which runs through
Vincent's life in meticulous detail. It becomes absolutely maddening towards
the end, which chronicles the last, painful days of Vincent's life, as
he lies dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Jarrett manages to be
quite moving here for a few moments at a time, but then spoils it with
one of his loud, extravagant gestures. Nimoy's script is simple and honest;
Jarrett cannot or will not find the stillness that would give his words
the emotional weight they deserve.
Jarrett came upon this script in 1994, secured the rights and "spent
next two and a half years preparing himself for the role of a lifetime."
There is no director credited so we can only assume that the man has been
working on his own for the last eight years, getting progressively more
odd. Idiosyncratic body language aside, he is simply not convincing as
a nineteenth-century Frenchman - not so much because of his corn-fed American
accent as that his every gesture feels contemporary. That he is never
really in character becomes glaringly obvious as he switches between the
roles of Vincent and Theo - he plays them exactly the same, so much so
that you are never quite sure which brother he is supposed to be at any
point in time.
Nimoy has produced a lovingly-researched tribute to an artist he obviously
has a lot of admiration for. His low-key, affectionate text has since
been taken over by an actor in what can only be described as a
production of megalomaniacal proportions. Apart from Nimoy's, Jarrett's
is the only name that appears in the programme. This would not matter
in the least if he were any good, but his portrayal was the theatrical
equivalent of having ants crawl all over your naked body. "Journey
towards artistic integrity," Jim? You've got a long way to go.