Super Night Shot Is Ready for Your Close-up

Gob Squad returns to the Under the Radar festival

An hour before the UK/German troupe Gob Squad’s Super Night Shot, at the Under the Radar festival, four of the seven Occupy-types in the company rush through local streets, each armed with a camera, to create semi-improvised videos that will screen simultaneously later. While filming in separate locations, the troupe accosts strangers and incorporates them into their loosely assembled story. At prearranged times, all four performers do more or less the same thing—spit a rhyme over a beat, dance around while wearing animal masks, twirl beneath a handheld umbrella in the street, Gene Kelly-style. Filming done, they rush into the Public Theater and project their unedited footage onto four video screens.

Gob Squad sustain a high level of energy and good humor throughout their shenanigans, using familiar movie stuff as their template: Each night's designated “hero” (on my night, the Jean-Pierre Léaud–like Bastian Trost) sets out on a quest for romantic love and wage what Gob Squad calls "a war against anonymity" (one performer pastes posters of Trost in the vicinity and declares Trost's fame to bemused customers at McDonald's). Trost, meanwhile, must ask pedestrians to help make his purpose more specific: “I have superpowers," he says, "but I haven't found them yet." A man in the subway suggests that his power can be to "make friendlier people," which leads to an amusing bit where Trost elicits smiles for 6 train riders, with limited success. For the finale, he will have to kiss a a total stranger.

All good fun, but Gob Squad seems rather desperate to entertain, even though their genre feels totally original, melding street theater, improv, and cinema—Forced Entertainment meets Upright Citizens Brigade at John Jesurun’s house, maybe? The technology also achieves something gloriously impossible for most art forms—it shows you simultaneous events in different places. With such a powerful idea in their hands, it’s slightly disappointing that they’ve chosen Hollywood flicks as their narrative model. But the crowds do go wild for that schmaltzy stuff, even when the hero's dressed as a rabbit.

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