Recognize these guys? David Schmader, Mark Boeker, and Unpaid Intern Erin Pike at/in a Gob Squad dress rehearsal this afternoon.
The beginning of Gob Squad's Kitchen seems deceptively playful and slight. The audience is led through a backstage area and greeted by performers in quasi-character as people from Andy Warhol's early Factory scene in 1965. (Gob Squad aren't actors per se—they always perform in quasi-character.) The performers talk to the audience and, at the New York performance I saw in the winter of 2011, passed around what smelled like a joint.
Once we had taken our seats, the performers kept going—smoking, flirting, and breezing around the stage while remaking some of Warhol's iconic films with cameras and screens mounted around the theater: Sleep (of someone sleeping), Kiss (of people kissing), Kitchen (of people in a kitchen), and so on. At times, it felt like a Factory version of a Renaissance fair, permeated with a downy, druggy, and occasionally raucous atmosphere. At other times, it looked like contemporary performers trying to figure out how to produce that atmosphere. The result was a self-conscious cross-pollination between back then and right now.
But then something shifted: The performers began gently bringing audience members onto the stage to join the scene. By the end, the performers had all left, with audience members in their place doing just what Warhol had his circle of so-called superstars doing for his cameras—hanging out in a kitchen, sitting quietly in front of a camera for a screen test—and a new feeling had emerged...