Friday, January 18, 2008

'Taking Over' ☼☼☼☼BANG BANG BANG

Kaitlin is the silliest and El Dispatcher the most extraordinary, but of the nine characters Danny Hoch brings to life in the stunning 'Taking Over' at Berkeley Rep, Marian sees it and says it best.

She is an older black lady who has lived her whole life in the same apartment on the same block in Brooklyn's rapidly gentrifying Williamsburg neighborhood. Like many of the other local characters Hoch portrays, Marian has seen it all from her stoop-- the crack epidemic of the '80s, the first white newcomers in the '90s and now the huge influx of people from all over America who are driving her and her friends out of their homes.

Her discovery is frighteningly simple: she and her nonwhite friends have not only become irrelevant, they are now invisible. Marian figures it out when she decides one day to walk into the new pastry shop -- "I do love me some almond croissants" -- and see what all the fuss is about. But no one will take her order. They don't even notice her when, in frustration, she grabs three four dollar pastries and walks out. No one says a word. "Those French people can quiche my ass," Marian says.

Oi, Kaitlin -- if you're from Berkeley she will make you cringe. Kaitlin wears a Nepalese natural fiber cape and sells jewelry and t-shirts on the sidewalk in front of Marian's house. She is clueless to her role in the gentrification process. If it weren't for El Dispatcher, Danny Hoch's spot-on whiney, self-entitled Kaitlin voice would steal the show.

But this guy -- this vato, this coño, this tigre -- nothing you will see on stage this year will leave you as breathless as El Dispatcher. He is the taxi dispatcher for New Brooklyn Cab Company. In his fifteen minute screamingly funny monologue he not only fields calls from all his cab drivers (who appear to be from every Latin American country), his clients calling for cabs, and his wife and children (who are named Ashley and Justin), but he also delivers a scathingly off-color stream-of-consciousness essay which could be called: "A Dominican's View of Every One Who is Not Dominican." Did we mention the whole shmear is delivered in perfectly accented Dominican Spanish? (We see the translation in supertitles above.) Ai, cabron. This Danny Hoch guy is the real deal.

Hoch has made his name in the hip-hop world, and he is founder of the Hip-Hop Theater Festival, but to call Taking Over 'hip-hop' is to call West Side Story 'Puerto Rican.' The show is so good it transcends labels. How about genius, tigre?


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards Danny Hoch's 'Taking Over' as high a rating as can be achieved by a one man show: Four ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ and three BANGS. The first and most important Star is for tackling a real issue -- gentrification and what it means on all sides. Real Estate developer Stuart Guttberg (who is confused because demonstrators keep writing "Stuart Guttberg is an a**h***" on the walls of his new $300 million development) asks the cogent question: Aren't newcomers and boutiques better than crack houses and addicts?

Stars two and three are for performance brilliance, but Star four is for New York City. Wait 'til you hear the artist himself -- as one of the characters -- talk about 9-11. And just in case Danny Hoch didn't do all this by himself, let's give a shout out to director Tony Taccone, who has helped Hoch put the show together over the past few years.

There are too many BANGS to count. Franc the real estate agent gets one, as does Kiko, the ex-con who really needs a job because his mother is watching from the window. Even the exercise ball gets one.

Don't miss 'Taking Over.' A'ight?


"Taking Over"
Berkeley Repertory Company
2025 Addison St., Berkeley
Tue-Sun through Feb. 10 (some days are dark) $33-$69


Anonymous said...

Uh-oh, I'm reading this three months too late. I must try to get with the program. Good review.

Joe 6-Pack said...

I just saw the show in brooklyn, NY last night and I was completely blown away. This morning I am full of emotions of joy, pain, and confusion.
I've wanted a performance and expression of the gentrification going on in my hometown of Brooklyn. The voice is there in this play, he speaks for everyone going through the struggle across the nation.
I hope that we can all learn from this and prevent the destrution of neighborhoods, the destruction of culture. People should think before they just move across the country to a neighborhood they call "up and coming" and "hip". People live there and have gone through sh*t.
Respect your elders!