He’s a one-man Nigerian band 

Dan Hoyle’s work as a Fulbright scholar took him to Nigeria, and he came back to his home in San Francisco to put on a show about his wild experiences there.

"Tings Dey Happen," Hoyle’s dynamic one-man show, is continuing an extended run at The Marsh in San Francisco, the site of two of his previous pieces, "Circumnavigator," about his trip around the world, and "Florida 2004: The Big Bummer," about campaigning for John Kerry.

Unlike many solo performances at The Marsh, which are told from a first-person perspective, Hoyle, who is in his mid-20s, doesn’t himself appear in "Tings Dey Happen." Instead, he takes on the persona of various Nigerians and the Europeans and Americans he met during his year from 2004-05 in the tumultuous country.

His performance is nothing short of thrilling, as he takes on characters of all stripes.

He opens the show as a funny, friendly Nigerian guy who serves as the piece’s narrator. He begins by pulling out a map of Nigeria to helpfully explain how the country’s geography, particularly the Niger Delta, is inextricably tied up in its politics — and that means oil.

The setup is reverberated in the words of some of the characters who follow, and the inevitable conclusion is that the poor, powerless natives of Nigeria will remain that way because Big Oil is what runs the country.

But that’s not without interruption, including violence perpetrated by warlords and militants, including one man, a sadly sympathetic sniper who really wants to be a student but resorts to his deadly job because he needs the money it pays.

Seemingly effortlessly and with lots of dazzle, Hoyle jumps from one character to the next, and they’re all distinct (although at times slightly confusing, because he doesn’t extensively explain who the people are).

Creating composites from real Nigerians he met, Hoyle becomes a warlord, various prostitutes, a community relations officer, a weed-smoking youth. Under the direction of Charlie Varon, another Marsh veteran and skilled solo performer, Hoyle is also hilarious as non-Nigerians, particularly drunken Scotsmen and Texans working for Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil who populate the bars and tell their own stories.

Hoyle’s own observations are missed only in that the show lacks a concrete plot with a personal thread, somewhat muting the emotional impact of his intriguing, powerful characters.

Despite that, "Tings Dey Happen" is truly unique. Not only is it an engaging show, it’s likely the most entertaining primer on the current state of affairs of Nigeria to appear on a San Francisco stage.

Tings Dey Happen ***

Where: The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays; 5 p.m. Saturdays (8 p.m. Jan. 13); closes Feb. 10

Tickets: $15-$22

Contact: (800) 838-3006 or www.themarsh.org

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Leslie Katz

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