Even on their own, the 11 characters portrayed by Danny Hoch in his one-man show, "Some People," would fascinate, given the almost documentary-like exactitude with which they're portrayed. But Hoch has more on his mind, something that suggests the sum of his show being greater than its quite considerable parts.
Even on their own, the 11 characters portrayed by Danny Hoch in his one-man show, “Some People,” would fascinate, given the almost documentary-like exactitude with which they’re portrayed. But Hoch has more on his mind, something that suggests the sum of his show being greater than its quite considerable parts. After 90 minutes of one character snapshot after another, Hoch has created a mosaic of singular voices and accents that finds its real power in the subtle suggestion of a common ground.
At the most literal level, the common ground is on the streets of Brooklyn and Queens where everyone — and so no one — represents a minority.
The 22-year-old Hoch is a Queens native who seems capable of calling forth the accent and patois of anyone who’s ever crossed his path. He slips into these characters with such credibility that one needs to read the program notes to discern his true ethnic background (“white Jewish kid”).
Onstage, and with only minor costume changes — a hat here, a jacket there — Hoch presents, one by one, the residents of an increasingly multilingual New York City.
He offers a Polish repairman who struggles to make small talk to his customer , a young Puerto Rican woman whose bravada masks a potentially deadly ignorance about AIDS, and a middle-age Jewish mother whose liberal identity is sorely tested by her son’s social work in the Bronx.
Hoch’s talent for mimicry, impressive enough, well serves his greater purpose of etching an impressionistic portrait of a city marked by an unprecedented commingling of ethnicities and languages. Hoch’s people are forever struggling to overcome linguistic barriers, their successes seeming nothing short of miraculous.
Key to the show’s success are Hoch’s refreshing lack of sentimentality and Jo Bonney’s clean, uncluttered direction.
Hoch’s melting pot is as maddening as it is rich, never more so than in two characters whose insecurities take ugly turns. Bill is a yuppie-wannabe from New Jersey who spews paranoid interpretations of the evening news, his blithe bigotry all the more reprehensible because of his smug con-viction.
Flex, a young black man whose jealousy of an old friend’s college plans is as poignant as it is barely concealed, attempts to demonstrate power by cruelly berating a Chinese waiter.
The struggle for connection finds its most touching display in the final characterization, a grieving Hispanic man searching for the words and the strength to deal with the recent death of his teenage son.
Finding neither, he retreats into the song he once sang with the boy. Here and throughout, Hoch gives eloquent voice when words fail.