Review by Max McCormack
In today’s political discourse, one must be living under a massive rock not to know how wildly diverse America has become. The far left and the far right are loud; riled up, and with today’s far-reaching digital platforms everyone has access to one another’s soapbox. Dan Hoyle takes us on an autobiographical road trip across the continental U.S. to show this diversity first hand in this riveting new one-man show.
The piece begins at a casual brunch with upper-middle class friends spouting clichés about organic food and other unintelligible nonsense. Hoyle decides to discover his countrymen in the form of a road trip through the south.
What’s captivating about this play is not the story itself – that is fairly banal – it is instead Hoyle’s unbelievable accents and mannerisms as he plays everything from a closeted gay fundamentalist to a rural drug dealer, a coal miner, a Vietnam veteran, and a sheltered hipster girl in his circle of friends in San Francisco. Some would shy away from playing up characters one could consider stereotypical, but in its essence that's what “The Real Americans” is about—the truths that exist in stereotypes. It is an idea that while we are all different, we are all still a part of this American thread.
Meeting the various characters Hoyle found along his journey is an exercise in characterization and patience. Some make you want to get out of your seat so you can shake them; others you want to hug. The range of individuals is at times heartbreaking, especially the aforementioned Vietnam vet who has made his life’s work about teaching Iraq and Afghanistan veterans how to cope. He tells the story of one man who he tried to help who recently committed suicide. At first glance, the cosmopolitan yuppies Hoyle escapes wouldn’t look twice at the man and that is at the heart of what this playwright attempts to show.
Developed and directed Charlie Varon, who brilliantly makes use of the spare set. The lighting and music (including a touching yet hilarious acoustic performance) elicits change in a smooth yet uncompromising way.
This country is full of characters, some righteous and some absolutely crazy. This dynamic performance encapsulates our own diversity.
“The Real Americans” is produced by The Culture Project and runs through April 20, 2014. Tickets available at www.cultureproject.org.