Monday, January 10, 2011

Gob Squad's Kitchen (You've Never Had It So Good)

Gob Squad's Kitchen is showing as part of the Public Theater's Under The Radar Festival right now in the Village. I attended the performance Saturday night knowing very little about the festival or the troupe, but left fully convinced of Under The Radar's spirit and intention.

The ultimate goal of UTR is to 'offer a crash course in theater that is exciting, independent, and experimental.' The Gob Squad, one of 20 or so invited artist groups, is a traveling troupe of British and German artists working collectively with video, installation, and theater to explore the 'complexities and absurdities' of various pop culture phenomenons-- in this case, Andy Warhol's film 'Kitchen'.

The play has been called a 'live film', as the audience views the play on a screen placed in front of the actual set. We entered the space through the infamous 'factory', before taking our seats facing a screen that-- after a round of technical difficulties that I swore were part of the act (they weren't)-- projected the action in a grainy yet illuminate black and white picture. Smart indeed.

The tone isn't unlike Jemaine and Bret's Flight of the Concords-- a performance that doesn't take itself at all seriously about people who take themselves extremely seriously. The result is an endearing yet extremely silly observation of real people, acting themselves, in an otherwise banal setting. That silliness is the saving grace of the depiction of Warhol's world of foggy, confused pretension. No one REALLY wants to watch those old films without some sort of mind altering aid, come on. But we do want to know about it. So what the Gob Squad handed us instead was a recreation. And it worked.

Edie Sedgwick was there, among others, in black tights, a pixie cut, and aloof giggles. Yet instead of playing Edie by the book, the Gob Squad shifted her into 'Sharon', who gives us a solid footing that Sedgwick would never yield to. I laughed aloud for much of the 90 minutes, delighted by the little inside jokes about Warhol and the 60s and the feminist movement and basic human tendency. There was an element of audience participation, and a three minute kiss, and many references to 'others watching it in 100 years', which seems to be as far into the future as people dared to consider mid-century. Those tiny observations, spewed from the mouths of very sweet British and German actors, gave structure and meaning to an otherwise random piece of theater.

Gob Squad's Kitchen is silly, lasting, and smart. I can only imagine what the other 19 Under the Radar are handing out for free (well, like $15, which is amazing). The festival lasts through the 16th, and tickets can be found here. GO.

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