Taking Over 

Thursday, Jan 29 2009
From the way he walks across the aisle in front of the stage, you'd think that Danny Hoch has a lumbering gait, until he springs onto the raised stage as though his shoes had launchers in their heels. Hoch's one-man show is worth seeing if only for the Puck-like nimbleness he uses to portray a series of men and women from a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. Physical dexterity is matched by verbal, with his hypnotic renditions of rapid-fire local cadences. Hoch's characters include an ex-con trying to hustle a job from an indie-film crew setting up on the streets. He finally offers to move boxes for free just to show his mom, who's watching from a nearby brownstone window, that he's needed. The parodies are broad, vicious and tender at the same time, as in the case of an African-American woman who sits on her stoop keeping an eye on the local kids, and a Dominican taxi dispatcher who verbally assaults the Puerto Rican and Mexican cabbies under his charge in Spanish (translations provided on screen). His tenderly spoken bigotry is a comedy act that would get him thrown out of an office building in most American cities were he to unleash his torrent from a different post. One character includes Hoch himself, responding to letters of complaint that all the white guys in his show are assholes: Leading that list is Stewart Gottberg, the investor-owner of a new luxury high-rise assuring his prospective clients that the residents of the "buffer" building next door — apparently mandated by some "affordable-housing" legislation that actually ushers in gentrification — won't be using their spa or swimming pool. Hoch, as himself, also recites, with muted irony, viewer complaints that his show has no message. What do you want us to do — stop progress? they ask. Perhaps his show is just a showcase dancing around a plight. He claims that the blood of a fallen gang member is more "authentic" than an organic artichoke being sold in the Whole Foods market now occupying the site where the gang member died. But since he started touring his show about gentrification, an elephant has walked across his stage, and his determination to ignore it places what should be the hippest event in town way behind the curve. Since the economic meltdown, loans on construction of the luxury high-rises he finds to be such a symbol of numbing, sterile consumerism have themselves been mostly frozen, while the new president is appealing to us to reconsider former habits of debt-based conspicuous consumption and narcissistic isolation that have driven our country into its current crisis. For the first time in 15 years, rents are actually dropping. This is the paradox of creating a topical show in an era when the topics change even more quickly than Hoch's turn-on-a-dime impersonations. Tony Taccone directs. Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 6:30 p.m. (added perf Feb. 22, 1 p.m., replaces 6:30 p.m. perf); thru February 22. (213) 628-2772 or www.centertheatregroup.org.
Fri., Jan. 23, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m. Starts: Jan. 23. Continues through Feb. 22, 2009
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Reach the writer at smorris@laweekly.com

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