Review: Gob Squad’s “Kitchen”

I have a very special relationship to the 1965 Andy Warhol film Kitchen. In the years following Kitchen‘s very limited art house cinema release, Ron Tavel, Warhol’s scenario writer, adapted Kitchen into a stage play called Kitchenette, which in various incarnations was a favorite of off-off-Broadway well into the 1970s, featuring legendary performances by the likes of Harvey Fierstein, Mary Woronov and Taylor Mead.

Decades later, I acted in a public workshop of the play at the Omaha Magic Theatre. My mentor, playwright Megan Terry, had seen Kitchenette in the 60s, and thought it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen. Reading Tavel’s wild and wooly script, I had to agree with her. After that workshop, whenever a directing class called for an exciting springboard, I would choose Kitchenette as the script I would work on. I developed a warm long-distance friendship with Tavel, and directed a reading of Kitchenette with NYC gay troupe TOSOS only a handful of years ago, shortly before Tavel passed away.

So I come to avant garde Brit theatre company Gob Squad’s Kitchen with a very unusual set of baggage. Gob Squad re-enacts the Warhol film (not as funny as the play, since Warhol’s cast couldn’t remember their lines…for various reasons…), laying emphasis on what was about to happen in the years after the film came out, and Warhol’s fascination with the telling details of the banal and the everyday. To better approximate the raw, almost amateurish edge of Warhol’s film, the Gob Squaders gradually replace themselves with people from the audience, to whom they feed lines through headsets.

I should not have been surprised, perhaps, that I was the first person selected to go on-stage the night I attended…

I can attest that Gob Squad’s version of Kitchen is a truly entertaining hoot-and-a-half, both as an audience member and as a participant. Happily, you can continue to enjoy the show as a spectator once you go onstage, since video monitors are liberally peppered throughout the set.

This is as much fun as avant-garde theatre gets, with plenty of food for thought and briskly optimistic theatricality.

For tickets, click here.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Gob Squad’s “Kitchen”

  1. Tim

    I’m curious about your experience of being pulled on stage. The night I saw it, I was convinced that at least some of the people pulled were audience plants — or at least had been chosen and briefed ahead of time. They just seemed too comfortable, without the usual looking-around-lost feeling or self-consciousness that people get when they’re onstage but not quite sure what to do next. The performances they were giving were simply too good to be random choice. That said, I found the evening to be fun and surprisingly moving.

  2. dramaqueennyc

    Here’s the thing. In articles about the company — and in the off-mike conversations I had with them on-stage — the company members made it clear that they have a very specific approach to selecting people. They look for people who maintain eye contact with them, or in some other way seem eager to participate. That is what accounts for their ease on stage. Also some of the people selected may have known about the conceit of the show — it’s all over the press coverage — and may have actively wanted to participate. I know I did, and was very pleased when they selected me.

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