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Till the Break of Dawn
It takes Hoch two and a half hours and eleven characters to make these points.
The show, which liberally mixes standup comedy and preachy monologues, might have been mercifully edited by a sympathetic and sensitive director, but such a hopeful outcome was thwarted when Hoch decided to direct his own play. Without an objective eye looking over the show, it becomes an extreme example of sprawling self-indulgence.
Till the Break of Dawn opens in the cramped New York apartment of Internet hip-hop activist Gibran (the stiff but amiable Jaymes Jorsling) where the friends meet to plan their trip. These friends include Robert (Johnny Sanchez) and his girlfriend, Rebecca (Maribel Lizardo), both teachers with the Dept. of Education (except Robert has just been fired); the loud-mouthed Hector (Flaco Navaja); the svelte and sassy Nancy (pattydukes); and Adam (Matthew-Lee Erlbach), the Jewish record producer who is supplying the money for the trip.
In Havana, the group joins other New York acquaintances as well as an eclectic group of American ex-patriots and Cubans. Big Miff (Dominic Colon) is a rapper who wears heavy gold chains and looks suspiciously white. Toulouse (Bambadjan Bamba), a black Frenchman, spouts the international point of view. Dana (Gwendolen Hardwick) is an activist who escaped from a federal prison and is now trying to sell the young Americans illegal cigars.
Dana's friend, Bobby (the perpetually yelling Jimmie James), finally rents the desperate travelers a room. (All the hotels in Havana are booked up.) Bobby is a sly former Wall Street broker who came to Cuba after he got busted for some illegal activity, and he has been "looking for a job for twelve fucking years." Dana and Bobby both employ a jack-of-all-trades named Felito (Luis Vega), whose main function in the play seems to be reciting American advertising slogans and profane and racist rap lyrics.
It turns out Havana is not exactly a haven. The city is protected by "Committees of Defense," anything can be purchased with dollars, lyrics have to pass the censor, blacks are treated worse than in the U.S.A., and the hotels are filled with "Italians and their prostitutes." Gibran and his friends cannot stop arguing about the real meaning of revolution, the situation in Cuba, and what they want to accomplish.
The group finally returns to New York after Gibran has internalized Dana's message, "just do the work."”Some people may be left wondering why it took Hoch and company so long to relay something so obvious.
This may be because the characters in Till the Break of Dawn seldom really talk to each other. They are one-dimensional mouthpieces for the playwright, and they keep delivering long monologues that are supposed to be either funny or profound. Perhaps, in consideration of his play's length, Hoch has most of the actors speak at such breakneck speed it's hard to understand what they're getting at. Add to that the prevalence of hip-hop slang and much of the play becomes unintelligible for the uninitiated.
There's a good play somewhere in Till the Break of Dawn. Hoch just has to go back to the drawing board to find it.
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