In this one man play, Leonard Nimoy plays Theo Van Gogh giving a talk to an audience in the week after his brother Vincent’s death at the age of 37.
The first act deals with Vincent’s early life and desire to become a missionary, as well as some of his quirkier foibles, such as his attempt to marry his cousin. The second takes a darker turn as he’s incarcerated for supposed insanity, leading to his depression and suicide after the most productive period of his life.
Based on the extensive letters he wrote to his doting brother, it gives the impression of authenticity. In his second autobiography, I Am Spock, Nimoy talks at length about his passion for Van Gogh and identifies this project as one of his proudest career highlights. As a troubled but committed artist himself, it’s easy to see how Nimoy could relate to the painter.
He writes and directs this play (based on another play, Vincent Van Gogh by Phillip Stephens), painting a delicate picture with a passion that’s evident from beginning to end. There’s even a documentary segment following the recording in which Nimoy visits some of the places from Van Gogh’s life and considers the mindset behind his genius. The play features a large number of his iconic paintings, keeping Van Gogh’s work in mind as it explores his personal life.
Nimoy give a superb performance as the loving but exasperated brother, but also as Vincent himself, as he adopts another voice and persona when reading from his letters and recounting their conversations. It’s a captivating portrayal and a fascinating insight, which displays Nimoy’s passion, ability and integrity as a serious artist.