He's the young white American who's (remarkably) neither a Christian missionary nor a petrochemical engineer; who wants, crazily, to study oil politics (prompting one wag to advise him to practice ducking, as he's sure to be shot at); who, to one local's amazement and consternation, doesn't know how to fix a computer.
Tings is a history lesson and a political lesson even a geography lesson (the Niger Delta "is like your Mississippi Delta," the stage manager explains with knowing understatement, "but there are more guns"). But the show is also very much an entertainment and a display of performance prowess. Hoyle whose first solo endeavor, Circumnavigator, was followed by Florida 2004: The Big Bummer, a report from a front line in the last presidential election has made this multicharacter reportage-bricolage his forte, backing it with the limber facility of a physically disciplined actor and natural mimic.
There's a certain admirable audacity in Hoyle's Nigeria project, not just in his fearless reconnaissance of deeply troubled waters especially among the battle-hardened rebels of the creeks but in his willingness to boldly assume the voices and personae of ordinary Nigerians, to step inside their perspectives and encourage his American audiences to follow.
In what's perhaps an overly eager attempt to please, however, his characters tend to be eccentrics. And in some cases the characterizations feel more put on, along the lines of caricature, than fully embodied. While invariably absorbing, the sum of these parts may also lend a skewed impression of the average Nigerian. There's no mention, for example, of the nonviolent resistance led by women and student organizations against the exploitation of Nigerian people, land, and resources. (The only female character essayed in Tings is a sympathetically indignant prostitute.)
Moreover, the play's two hours could stand trimming and focusing (a malaria-fueled fever dream in which Dan is visited by competing advice givers Graham Greene and Richard Pryor, for example, is only weakly funny and hence all the more tangential). These quibbles aside, Hoyle's work brings a burgeoning talent to a still woefully neglected subject that, as presented here, is both absorbing in its dramatic complexity and urgent in its political import. *
TINGS DEY HAPPEN
Through Feb. 10
Thurs.Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 p.m., $15$22
1062 Valencia, SF
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