Many pointed views in ‘The Real Americans’ 

By turns hilarious, disturbing and poignant, Dan Hoyle’s new solo offering at The Marsh — developed with and directed by another brilliant local writerperformer, Charlie Varon — is a winner.

Hoyle embarked upon a 100-day road trip to our country’s heartland to escape his Bay Area “urban-PC” bubble, create for the stage a portrait of small-town American heroes (as he explains in the program notes) and perhaps in some tiny, modest way help unite a divided country.

What he didn’t expect was the depth of anger and ignorance he encountered; it was off the charts, he says.

The resulting play is different from the one he’d anticipated. He’s taken aback by the clueless conservatism that’s rampant, and he knows it’s more organized and influential than ever.

But in his final message he also offers a smidgen of hope and suggestions for future activism.

In “The Real Americans,” unlike in his previous “Tings Dey Happen,” in which he investigated oil politics in Nigeria, the boyishly beguiling Hoyle plays himself: the open-faced observer, uncomfortable yet longing to feel a connection to his own countrymen, many of whom are friendly and kind.

The voluble characters he portrays are old and young, black, white and Latino, male and female (some of them composites) and include some friends back home in San Francisco.

He talks directly to the characters, intersperses the monologues and dialogues with his own plaintive and charmingly goofy raps, songs and prayers. “Why did I think this would make such a great play?” he warbles. “Why am I such a stranger in my own land?”

In Alabama, an embarrassed wife apologizes for her inanely racist husband, and a black man whose daddy picked cotton all his life gloats over the election of Obama.

In Texas, a hospitable creationist expounds upon the origins of the world.

In Kentucky, a part-Cherokee coal miner and labor unionist, speaking in an incomprehensible, musical cadence (amusingly, Hoyle provides subtitles), spits tobacco and declares he didn’t vote for Obama; it was Reagan he liked.

At a gun show in Michigan, a Vietnam vet says that he wrote his congressman advising against going into Iraq (“It’s not worth it”) but assures Hoyle that Obama’s a Muslim.

A kid from the Dominican Republic tells Hoyle proudly, “I’m America now!”

An ex-San Francisco hippie, drunk in a bar, morphs into a truculent, pro-war, redneck.

In a particularly funny scene, Hoyle fantasizes that Obama’s giving him a pep talk — “Get a grip!” — and admiring Hoyle’s desire to be “an evangelist of reason.”

With virtually no props or costume changes, Hoyle’s an amazing chameleon. At various times he appears taller, thinner, fatter; even his face appears physiologically altered from character to character.

If there’s any stage actor who’s better at that than he is, and who can do it with more empathy, precision, intelligence and wit — or whose goals are more admirably serious — I ’d be surprised.

The Real Americans
Presented by The Marsh

Where: 1062 Valencia St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays; 8 p.m. Saturdays; 3 p.m. most Sundays; closes April 18
Tickets: $15 to $50
Contact: (800) 838-3006,

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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