Gob Squad skewers and pays tribute to Warhol's Factory
In "Gob Squad's Kitchen (You've Never Had it So Good)," at On the Boards in Seattle, the European troupe skewers Andy Warhol's Factory poseurs. Through Sunday.
Seattle Times theater critic
'Gob Squad's Kitchen (You've Never Had It So Good)'Through Sunday at On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $25 (206-217-9886 or www.ontheboards.org).
Theater review |
No generation can entirely escape the art of the previous generation. And the clinging residue from the pop-art explosions of the 1960s can be especially hard to shake off.
The English-German troupe Gob Squad doesn't decry the pervasive influence of the iconic artist, film auteur and scenemaker Andy Warhol. Quite the contrary.
In their marvelous, dialectical piece "Gob Squad's Kitchen (You Never Had It So Good)," at On the Boards through Sunday, this ingenious multimedia ensemble embraces Warhol's prescient construct of a hyper-mediated world, where everyone is bound to have their 15 minutes of fame. (Including backstabbing New Jersey housewives.)
And they take to heart Warhol's credo that "life is a series of images that change as they repeat themselves."
The show conjures images from the early Warhol films "Kitchen," "Kiss" and "Screen Test" (among others). These legendary but now-obscure flicks mystified the public, but were hailed by art critics for "cleansing" the cinematic palate, capturing au natural "the seemingly unimportant details that make up our daily lives."
Performing behind a large screen that projects three frames of action (and inaction) via live video, the Gob Squadders also venture into the audience — to pluck out patrons for their own 15 minutes of "fame."
Unlike the so-called "superstars" in Warhol's films, who were fame-famished habitués of The Factory, these canny actor-creators seem accessible, unglamorous, and absurdly eager to please. When they try to affect the gauzy narcissism of Warhol's human mannequins, they uproariously fail.
The point is that they're trying too hard to recapture that Factory mystique. Sharon Smith is an Edie Sedgwick wannabe. Berit Stump resembles a frazzled, over-mascara-ed B-movie queen. Showing off their kitchen set, the two strive for '60s authenticity in every prop and stick of furniture. But they just can't give up decaf Earl Grey tea bags for instant coffee crystals.
Simon Will's ludicrous impression of a 1960s gay male hustler is funny and cringe-inducing. And in another frame, vivacious Sarah Thom can't master the passive art of sleeping on camera. (In Warhol's film "Sleep," someone snoozes for more than five hours.)
"Gob Squad's Kitchen" implicitly skewers the holier-than-thou coolness of Warhol's poseurs — deliberately chosen by the artist for their attractive shallowness — and the numbing banality of the unscripted screen opuses they wafted through. (Not to mention the 1960s obsessions of today's art scene.)
But a deep respect for Warhol also comes through. And a touching nostalgia for a cultural period which, despite its drawbacks, seems more with-it in retrospect.
Stumpf gushes fervently over Warhol's importance. She and the others muse about their current fears and confusions. Surreal hilarity gives way to vulnerability and intimacy.
And bringing (unrehearsed) audience members into the act is a stroke of "real world" inclusiveness that's Warholian in the best sense.
In the end, the actors all are replaced with "civilians" — who prove, yes, that ordinary people are just as engaging to watch.
Too much nostalgia for a time you didn't live through can be debilitating. But we are reminded here how art continues on, gathering inspiration and momentum from what came before. The '60s are dead; long live the '60s!
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org