Regular readers of this here blog will know that the title of said blog is ironic, in that I normally have very little patience for direct address and/or monologues in a show. You gotta earn it, which for me means that in the course of a 90-minute play you can maybe, maybe get away with five total minutes of direct address before I wanna pull my hair out.
So you can imagine how trepidacious I was heading into Danny Hoch’s TAKING OVER at Berkeley Rep, knowing it was a one-man show, and further knowing that “one-man show” is often code for “stand-up act disguised as theater in the form of many tedious monologues.”
Well, have no fear, many minions who use this blog to determine whether to attend a show. This show is good! First of all, the monologues aren’t really monologues. They’re active, dramatic scenes where the other actors just happen to be silent and invisible. In other words, no direct address. Just some amazing acting.
And let’s talk about the acting. Hoch brings to life nine characters from all walks of life, all affected by gentrification in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There’s Kaitlin, the straight-from-Berkeley hippie chick with a trust fund who laments how bad it’s gotten in the past two years, conveniently ignoring she invaded the city in the same way two years earlier. There’s Marian, who’s lived on the block for fifty years and has always known everyone, until the pastry shops and arts complexes and nightclubs and cafes moved in. And there’s the Dispatcher, who steals the show in a monologue that has to be seen to be believed.
Would I have liked it to have more than the one “gentrification is bad” perspective? Sure. While every scene is great on their own, the evening adds up to only one take on gentrification, and it would have been interesting to mix in one long-time resident who didn’t pine for the old days when crack dealers and muggers ran the neighborhood. Not one person would make the tradeoff for muffin shops instead of crack pipes?
But the piece is borne from Hoch’s anger at his neighborhood disappearing, and seeing that anger turned into nine incredible character pieces — and let me stress that the acting, writing and directing is phenomenal — is well worth the ride.
And look! There’s still several weeks to see the show. I didn’t see it on closing night. I’ve turned over a new leaf. Hooray for you.