Saturday, March 27, 2010

"The Real Americans": ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

Poor Dan Hoyle. Like Woody Allen, who was never forgiven for growing up, Dan Hoyle is going to have to carry his previous show "'Tings Dey Happen" around with him for a long time. It's a tough act to follow.

And -- sure enough -- after seeing Hoyle's very entertaining "The Real Americans" last night at the Marsh, this reviewer found himself wondering why such a fascinating premise, brought to fruition by a performer with such amazing chops, would lead to a show that - subtract the genius of the writer and performer -- leaves you with so little to chew on?

Everyone who loves performance in general, and one-man shows in particular, should see "The Real Americans," because Dan Hoyle has hit his stride as a performer. His Wisconsin football father, his Texas preacher grandfather and his San Francisco slacker friends, in particular, touch all the right buttons. These characters have nuance. The Wisconsin dad is a Vietnam vet in addition to rooting for his boy on the football field, the Texas preacher has a grandson who is leaving for Afghanistan as well as a most-likely gay son, and the thirty-somethings in San Francisco make you cringe with recognition.

So what's the problem? For us it's that Dan Hoyle set off across America with the premise of learning how Americans, real Americans, are feeling. He seems to have interviewed the same kinds of people over and over. Sure enough, what he learned was that people are angry.

As the reviewer's grandmother would have said: "This is news?"

Why are they angry? The answer appears to be because they are under-educated or live in backwards places, or sometimes they are just plain ignorant.

Or, the answer may well be, as the show's one black character says: "Shit done changed."

The show has fabulous moments, particularly every time Dan Hoyle sings or dances, or speaks through his own character, Dan. His musings about what he, Dan, is seeing are the most interesting part of the show.

And of course the show is new, and is far more interesting now than it was in its first rehearsal run-through of a few months ago. The addition of the Danny Hoch-like young Dominican moving with his family through the midwest is by far the best part of the show, and the most revealing about seeing America through different eyes. This kind of character is is what Hoyle did best in his previous work, and we would like to see more of that here.

Less rednecks, please. We know about rednecks. So did you, before you left. Tell us something we don't know.

Did I say the show is brilliant? I did. Did I say you should see it, particularly at low Marsh prices? Absolutely. The show is excellent already, but Dan Hoyle has set a treacherously high bar for himself. This show can only keep getting better.



The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Real Americans" Three Stars with a BANGLE of PRAISE. The three stars are for Dan Hoyle and Charlie Varon's vision, though it may be that the form itself is becoming a bit dated, the same thing we felt with Varon's "Rabbi Sam." Hoyle snaps out of that static form when he sings or dances, creating a hybrid that is entertaining as well as feeling new.

The BANGLE is for his Bill Cosby imitation, and everyone's reaction afterwards. It has nothing to do with the story, it's just really, really funny. In the end, you can't beat really, really funny.


"The Real Americans"
The Marsh
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Through May 30, select evenings

No comments: