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

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    January 1, 2012

    (Review by Tulis McCall)

    Wow. That is what I have to say. These people take theatre way off center and manage to bring you into the new loopy orbit. Ordinarily I don’t like the idea of audience participation. Even though I am an actor, or perhaps because I am, I like to see people who have had a bit of a go in rehearsal up there rather than people about whom I might have to be concerned. And I think I would refuse to volunteer myself.

    But the Gob Squad makes the transition seamless. They are investigators and collaborators at heart, and the audience is a sea of possible co-workers.

    The evening starts with a brief visit backstage where we see the set and the set-up that will be used. We meet the cast, which changes with each performance. Bread and peanut butter are offered. There is a kitchen, a bed and a sort of settee as well as the table where the technical equipment is located. Back to our seats we go, and soon the tale begins, all behind the enormous triptych of a screen.

    Simon Will, on camera in the center screen, welcomes us to the set of a remake of Any Warhol’s The Kitchen. It is 1965 and things are about to “become more relevant”. Simon and Nina Tecklenberg set the mood and explain the props – contemporary food will stand in for 1965 items. All except for Wonderbread because what could replace that and, oh by the way, it is still around. The discussion of what to do and how soon overtakes any planned action and the intended movie begins to unravel.

    On stage left and right there are two other screens. One is the bed where Sarah Thom is sleeping, but not for long. She is soon replaced by Sharon Smith who doesn’t last long on the bed either. The other screen is a dark area where the settee is located. The actors move from one side of the stage to the other, in various states of curiosity or dissatisfaction, always behind the screens, walking through the kitchen and participating in that film at will. As the “reality” of the actors’ tasks becomes clearer, the difficulty of said tasks becomes clearer as well, and soon each leaves to find replacements. This is where the audience comes in – and only the willing are chosen.

    It all seems delightfully unorganized, except that, like the Yale marching band, it is not. It is however, organized in such a gentle way that the structure does not hit you until the performance is nearly done. The screens operate separately and in unison with actors and civilians guiding each other from point to point. Although it is planned out to the point of being choreographed, there is still a spontaneity and innocence that is always present.

    Somehow, because of the audience participation, we are included in a very intimate experience. They are us. They are also the actors. This means the actors are us as well - interchangeable and still irreplaceable.

    This is a theatrical experience where every person has value and each night is a unique experience. You are asked to take off your shoes and step into the pool of ceremony and creativity.

    Step on in. The water’s fine.

    "Smart, goofy and surprisingly moving show."
    Charles Isherwood for New York Times

    "Smart, witty and constantly entertaining."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "An inventive but ultimately wearisome tribute to Andy Warhol and his movies."
    Andy Propst for Back Stage

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Post - Back Stage -