Gob Squad’s Kitchen (You’ve Never Had It So Good), now playing at the Public Theater through Feb. 5, starts the moment you enter the theater. An actor ushers you behind a billboard-sized screen for a quick tour of the stage — there’s a bed, a kitchen, some cameras, and lighting equipment — and that’s the last time you see those sets in living color. For the rest of the show, you’re watching the action projected live in black-and-white on the giant screen in a triptych of Andy Warhol-inspired sketches. In the center panel of the screen, actors from Gob Squad, a British-German theater collective, playfully try to re-create Warhol’s 1965 film Kitchen. Reenactments of his other films Sleep and Screen Tests play concurrently on the other two panels. Even when the show seems to drag on, there’s no shortage of things to look at in this ”film made live on stage,” as described in the program notes.
For the first half of the play, you get the distinct sense that the Gob Squad actors are having much more fun than anyone in the audience: They improvise loopy conversations about how to capture ’60s-era authenticity; they dance wildly and try to snort instant coffee like coke. At other moments, they simply stare at a camera or pretend to sleep. There’s no real narrative or structure to the onstage-onscreen antics — and that seems absolutely intentional — but all that randomness soon grows tiresome.
The show regains momentum when one by one, the Gob Squad players replace themselves with men and women chosen from the audience. The actors deliver directions to the audience members via headphones and in some cases draw impressive performances from them. The most poignant moment of the show came when Gob Squad troupe member Sarah Thom asked the middle-aged woman she pulled from the crowd, ”Are your best parties ahead of you or behind you?” After a bit of thought, the woman replied honestly, ”Probably behind me.” Thom eventually convinced the woman that the best parties were still ahead of her before locking her in a three-minute-long kiss. The moment was almost unbearably uncomfortable yet you couldn’t look away. You could say the same about the play itself. B?
(Tickets: 212-967-7555 or publictheater.org)