Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Sitting around drinking lattes with his SF liberal buds (all hilariously recreated in their idiosyncratic demeanors), Dan listens to all their (and his own) judgmental evaluations about the rest of the country. Suddenly breaking out into a stunning display of rap with a country-twang twist and into dance and body moves with hip-hop precision and flow, Dan declares that he is "going to where the real America roams."
In small towns that rarely get noticed or visited, Dan arrives in his van, drops in at bars, gets invited to dine at Sunday dinners, visits gun shows, and simply finds Americans going about their day-to-day, same-old, same-old lives. He brings a listening, non-judgmental ear; and it seems that everyone, including the most conservative, are open to talking with and even liking this boy from San Fran. Using only a few baseball hats and a grey t-shirt that stretches, rises, twists, and shapes itself into a slew of everyday wear for everyday people, Dan introduces us to the folks he meets.
First up is slur-tongued Ron from Wisconsin who is up to his ears in debt, owes child support, and served in Afghanistan where he found out, "People over there are totally different ... No beer ... I'd start blowing stuff up, too." In Texas, Dan is a welcomed stranger at a multi-generational dinner table where prayer humbly and heartily begins and ends the meal and conservative, god-fearing politics fills the rest of the conversation. A ranting, paralyzed Tommy and his apologizing wife in Alabama bemoan Walmart's ridding their town of all the small, local businesses, while also offering Dan some homemade moonshine. An African-American casino worker in Mississippi plays with his exposed (very flat) tummy while jiving in street talk about how proud he is of a black man who now gets "to tell all those white people what to do." And a lame veteran sporting a POW-MIA hat who is now a gun show operator in Michigan emotionally tells how Vietnam turned him into an anti-war advocate who now is committed to helping returning veterans too often ignored.
And on and on they come, each with his or her own story, unique looks, and quirky manners. Each also speaks in a local or ethnic dialect that seems impossible to be coming from this one man's moutha man who instantaneously transforms before us into so many different characters with ease and authenticity. That includes one tobacco-spitting car mechanic in Appalachia Kentucky whose hill dialect is so thick, superscripts tell the audience what he is saying. And what he says summarizes the gist what many of the people Dan meets along the road feel: "If you find America, tell me ... I don't see it much ... America done lost the way."
Alone with his van in the Texas night, Dan at one point looks to the stars and prays to God, "Dear God, thank you for having my country founded by liberal intellectuals instead of conservative rednecks." And while we mostly left-leaning San Franciscans may nod with vigor upon hearing these wordsespecially after subsequently hearing the disgusted raves about invading Muslims and Mexicans coming from his most recent re-visit across the continentthere is also something strangely uplifting and hopeful in the America revealed by Dan Hoyle.
These are people of shapes, beliefs, colors and types that may or may not look like the ones we know here in the Bay Area, but they are Americans who mostly do love in their own way their country, who want what is best for their children, and who are shocked and scared by the onslaught of changes and chaos they cannot understand. Maybe like many of us, they are simply "nostalgic for something that never happened," somehow believing it really was better yesterday or yesteryear. Walking out of this reprise gem, I found myself very much wanting to believe Dan Hoyle's own conclusion: "Nobody I met seemed crazy ... It's just all the shit they've been through." And who, after the past few weeks, can't agree with that?
The Real Americans continues through August 27, 2016, Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 8:30 at The Marsh, San Francisco, at 1062 Valencia Street. Tickets are available online at www.themarsh.org or by calling 650-327-1200.