Sunday, September 16, 2007

Backstage Review of Danny Hoch's New Play

Till the Break of Dawn

September 14, 2007

By Christopher Murray

Best known for his high-octane solo shows, Danny Hoch is the undisputed master of the urban male rant. Words spew out with a shotgun rapidity mixing cultural references, languages, fury, and wit in equal measure.

Till the Break of Dawn is Hoch's first attempt at a full-length play, and there are plenty of arias of angst delivered by a variety of characters that still sound suspiciously like him. Indeed, characters don't talk to each other as much as at each other, which is a shame, because they have a lot to say.

Gibran (Jaymes Jorsling), an Internet technogeek and wannabe radical, has cooked up a junket to a Havana hip-hop festival for his friends with the help of Adam (Matthew-Lee Erlbach), a smalltime record producer from Queens. Once there, they meet an ex-Black Panther in exile (Gwendolen Hardwick) who challenges their oversimplified vision of Cuba as a sociopolitical utopia.

The lion's share of the play consists of the characters lambasting each other with analyses of race and class, which may sound deadly but is mostly a heck of a lot of fun. Hoch is a born satirist, and his cast for the most part has a field day with his vivid language and passion for ideas. Hoch also directed the play, mostly admirably, with the tremendously appealing actors secure in their well-delineated characters, though they do tend to overdeliver on that well-known maxim "louder, faster, funnier."

Dominic Colon knocks one out of the park with his portrayal of Big Miff, who in his canary yellow velour sweat suit is a caricature of the already larger-than-life gangsta rapper Fat Joe. Colon never winks as he deadpans lines like "You people are depressing yo. You talk too much."

Overly loquacious they may be, but even with a portentous Sept. 11 tie-in at the end, Hoch is still one of the freshest and most exciting theatrical voices in town.

Presented by Culture Project at the Abrons Arts Center, Henry Street Settlement, 466 Grand St., NYC.Sept. 13-Oct. 21. Tue.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 2 p.m.(212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or or Casting by Billy Hopkins, Suzanne Smith, and Kerry Barden.

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