Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


The Real Americans
The Marsh
Review by Patrick Thomas | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Fool for Love, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and Daniel's Husband and
Patrick's reviews of One Stone (Einstein) and Hand to God


Dan Hoyle
Photo by Patrick Weishampel
In this time of incredible division within the country, it's refreshing to experience such an even-handed, honest portrayal of both sides of the political divide. I first saw Dan Hoyle's delightful The Real Americans in 2010, when it premiered at The Marsh in San Francisco, and it topped my list of favorite shows that year. In the years since he has amended and updated the show, most recently in the wake of Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election.

Now at the Berkeley outlet of The Marsh, the show is different from what it was even during this past summer's run. Many of the same characters are present—the people he met on a three-month sojourn into the heart of Middle America—but Hoyle has gone back to several of them to gauge their reactions to a man who was barely on the political radar in 2010, but who gave voice to many of the concerns those characters expressed during Hoyle's initial time with them.

Hoyle went seeking "tough country wisdom" but mostly got "small town anger." We meet the Iraq War veteran who claims he understands Islamic unrest: "Imagine a society without beer—I'd start blowin' up stuff, too!" We meet a wise patriarch in Texas who tells Dan, "If it's stupid, but it works, it ain't stupid." As in 2010, we are also treated to Hoyle's satirical take on his progressive Bay Area brunch-eating, sustainability-driven, privilege bubble-inhabiting friends—and their words skewer them just as efficiently as any racist diatribe he encountered in the Deep South. In fact, the "guilt-ridden elitist who can't even enjoy his own privilege" might even get it a little worse than the rednecks, who often come off as being commonsensical, even in their ignorance of the larger culture.

It's this satirical equity that, in part, has given The Real Americans such a long life. No one is perfect, and Hoyle is willing to mine humor and insight from wherever he finds it.

While still an excellent show, I feel Hoyle has lost some of the freshness and verve I witnessed in 2010, and the new material (some of which he had to read from notes, it being so fresh) lacked the bite of some of his earlier bits. But his brilliant mimicry (especially his impression of Obama) and seasoned stagecraft (I especially enjoyed the subtitles during a recreation of a conversation with a Kentucky auto mechanic) still carry the day.

No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, Hoyle can introduce you to people you might never meet—and you will come away understanding their concerns with a little bit more empathy. And empathy being in such short supply these days, performers like Dan Hoyle are more important than ever.

The Real Americans plays through February 25, 2017, at The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley. Performances are 8:00 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and at 2:00 p.m. Saturdays. Tickets are $25-$35 on a sliding scale, and $55-$100 for reserved seats. To purchase tickets, visit www.themarsh.org, or call 415-282-3055 between 1:00-4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.


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