Monday, November 24, 2008

Taking Over


By Danny Hoch. Dir. Tony Taccone. Public Theatre. (CLOSED)

Solo giant Danny Hoch's latest show is causing a stir with its take-no-prisoners approach to the issue of gentrification. While critics praise Hoch's talent at giving nuanced voice to characters who don't often find a place on the American stage, some balk at the piece's preachy tone—in particular Variety's Sam Thielman, whose piqued review memorably begins: "Danny Hoch brings to the Public Theater a message that usually arrives wrapped around a brick: 'Go back where you came from.' "

The Examiner A+
(Mona Molarsky) Offers the most searing and on-target look at New York since Do the Right Thing...Maybe we laugh so hard over Robert, Marion, Kiko and Launch Missiles Critical because deep down we know the same thing could happen to us someday. It doesn’t take much to become poor enough, old enough or simply un-trendy enough to turn into a ghost in New York City, or anywhere in America...Taking Over will make you laugh painfully hard and open your eyes—at the same time.

Newsday A
(Linda Winer) In his first multicharacter solo rant in more than a decade, [Hoch] makes the agony of resurgent neighborhoods fun again. In 90 snide and wonderful minutes, this master of New York ethnicities creates a sharp-edged picture of the people pushed aside by the condos and the brunch cafes...Sure, Hoch can get a little preachy, but he knows it and he also knows that there's nothing he can do about it. Directed with fast-paced visual imagery by Tony Taccone, the solo artist transforms into a community of characters who juggle their passionate contradictions with a light touch and a heavy hand...We think we've heard it all, but he has more.

Theatermania A
(Dan Balcazo) Perhaps his angriest solo show to date...While it's not quite a balanced overview, Hoch gives voice to a range of perspectives utilizing a powerful combination of humor and sharply etched portraits of the characters he portrays...Director Tony Taccone has no doubt aided Hoch in giving such a wonderful chameleon-like performance as he hops from character to character with minimal costume and set changes...Perhaps one of the best things that can come out of seeing Taking Over is that it will make many audience members uncomfortable, and cause them to question their own roles in the gentrification process. A
(Martin Denton) Timely, smart, funny, and very entertaining...Hoch offers no solutions for the problems he poses in Taking Over; how can he, really? What he does is give us a great deal of food for thought, showing us the perspectives of these varied New Yorkers with razor-sharp insight, wit, and compassion. Under the direction of Tony Taccone, the show flies, with transitions from locale to locale managed with up-to-the-minute high-tech fades.

Lighting & Sound America A
(David Barbour) In the funny and fierce Taking Over, Hoch uncorks his anger and confusion...Of course, he has an attitude problem--he's a native New Yorker, and he's watching the working-class world of the outer boroughs vanish...Suffice to say, Hoch is in rare form, detonating laughs with the force of grenades even as he poses uncomfortable questions about the city's so-called progress and our complicity in it...Indeed, Hoch has rarely seemed this devastatingly on the money, and I'm guessing that the director, Tony Taccone, has something to do with that...It all adds up to an evening that packs a sting in every smile.

Associated Press A-
(Peter Santilli) As scathingly unapologetic as it is brilliantly funny and tragic...[Hoch's] primary mission isn't to persuade people to agree with his point of view. He just wants them to hear it...Hoch takes us on a thoroughly entertaining tour of his ethnically diverse Brooklyn neighborhood through a series of comical sketches about the people who live there...Unlike Hoch's heroes, [his] less palatable characters are strikingly one-dimensional, which makes them less realistic. Despite this shortcoming, the sketches are nonetheless engaging and flowing, thanks to Hoch's easy command of language and speech, both as a playwright and actor.

The New York Times B+
(Ben Brantley) Zigzags between peaks of brilliance and plateaus of preachiness...Mr. Hoch does not need to spell out his agenda in capital letters. The strongest vignettes in Taking Over—which fortunately outweigh the weaker ones—are pulsing, seamless studies of character clashing with context, of people learning to sink or swim in suddenly unfamiliar waters.

NY Post B+
(Frank Scheck) To his credit, Hoch pokes fun at everyone, even those with whom he sympathizes...More impressionistic than deep, "Taking Over" vividly portrays a once-vibrant melting pot in which all the ingredients are starting to look the same.

Time Out NY B+
(Raven Snook) The razing of the gritty city and its impoverished inhabitants to make way for "luxury bohemian" living is a hackneyed stage subject, tackled countless times by Eric Bogosian, Penny Arcade and Hoch himself. What keeps Taking Over from sounding like a tired rant is the energy and anger pulsating through its unsentimental portrayals. Hoch may not like what has happened in his backyard, but he isn’t exactly nostalgic either...To his credit, Hoch avoids answers, easy or otherwise. All his characters want the same thing, to get along—not with each other, just in life.

Village Voice B
(Alexis Soloski) With each character, Hoch uses his blocky, unhandsome face and mobile mouth to great effect, enjoying this racial and linguistic drag...Hoch's separation of Williamsburg residents into maltreated minorities and craven Caucasians is altogether too simplistic. Hoch makes many valid arguments—and some entertainingly invalid ones—about gentrification and culpability. But only when he divests himself of character and takes the stage as "Danny" does he approach the situation with any kind of complexity.

Curtain Up B
(Dierdre Donovan) Director Tony Taccone can take pride in many aspects of the production and Hoch scores in pricking our conscience even though he risks having Taking Over labeled as an unabashed polemic...He portrays this spectrum of Williamsburg-ites with his usual panache but nearly all of his skits are infused with enough anger to be off putting and make some sensitive playgoers head for the exit.

AM New York B
(Matt Windman) Though the show is excessively angry in attitude and unedited in raw content, Hoch remains highly provocative and entertaining in performance...While Hoch provides fully fleshed, sympathetic portraits of all the longtime Williamsburg residents, he portrays the newcomers to the community as gross, oversimplified caricatures. Theatergoers are bound to disagree with Hoch’s opinions...In fact, Hoch ends the show by reading aloud his hate mail. Still, Hoch’s fiery, unapologetic opinions will certainly provoke discussion and debate.

Talkin' Broadway B
(Matthew Murray) Despite traversing an evening full of juicy personalities, Hoch never makes his message more clearly than when he delivers it as the character who says these words: himself...Hoch sympathizes entirely - and unapologetically - with the little guy being driven to extinction by Big Business, Big Real-Estate, and Big Tourism. While Hoch paints colorful caricatures of both sides of the debate, he seldom connects those in the anti- corner with the culture they’re trying to preserve...More of Hoch’s portrayals need the tequila-spiked smoothness of Tony Taccone’s direction.

Variety B-
(Sam Thielman) Deliberately, unapologetically unfair...Even after leaving the theater in a snit, it's hard not to feel pity for Hoch once you have a little distance...Part of what makes this show so troubling is the fact that it violates the "we're all in this together" spirit of post-9/11 New York...For every moment Hoch spends appropriating authority to skewer the powerful, there are two in which he abdicates it to step on his neighbors for having been born in the wrong place and time.

New Yorker B-
“I really just want all you crackers to get the fuck out of our neighborhood,” Robert, a character in Danny Hoch’s one-man show about gentrified Williamsburg, tells us. Hoch, a New York City native, does not appear to disagree with him. A skilled impressionist, he plays a variety of neighborhood types—a snotty French Realtor, a Chomsky-obsessed rapper—with an eye toward rising rents and shifting demographics. But he is hampered by his desire to be both portraitist and polemicist...Hoch’s disdain toward his creations only impedes his ability to inhabit them.

Examiner A+ 14; Newsday A 13; TheaterMania A 13; A 13; L&SA A 13; AP A- 12; NY Times B+ 11; NY Post B+ 11; TONY B+ 11; Village Voice B 10; Curtain Up B 10; AM New York B 10; Talkin' Broadway B 10; Variety B- 9; New Yorker B- 9; TOTAL: 169 / 15 = 11.27 (B+)

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