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Tings Dey Happen
As Hoyle notes in the program, in 2005-2006 he was a Fulbright scholar in Nigeria, performing at the University of Port Harcourt's Crab Theater and for the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos. He met and interviewed numerous Nigerians, Europeans and Americans, who were either directly or tangentially involved with Nigeria's most valuable product: oil. On the basis of those conversations, Hoyle created his show.
At the Culture Project's new home on Mercer Street, we look down upon Hoyle as he stands on the platform stage, a slim young man in black jeans and black T-shirt. There is plenty of room for him on that stage, for Hoyle shares the space with only a wooden chair and a trunk. But director and co-developer Charlie Varon largely keeps Hoyle to one spot near the edge, and there Hoyle attempts to transform into a range of characters: the sly stage manager who introduces the show; several Africans who either steal oil or work for the oil mafia; a grandiose African warlord or two; the occasional prostitute; and more than a handful of uptight Europeans and Americans, most of whom make their living from the profitable marriage between Nigeria's oil and companies such as Chevron and Exxon.
Hoyle's most successful characterization is the lively stage manager who periodically treats the audience to a dose of humorous abuse. But as a performer, Hoyle's physical and vocal ranges are narrow: his characterizing is limited to pulling back his chin and puffing out his chest, or adapting an ever denser Nigerian accent. The program notes include a guide to a street dialect called "Nigerian Pidgin," but at times Hoyle's adopted accent washes out the words' meaning (to his credit, he has written lines that allow the stage manager to make fun of, and the audience to laugh at, what sounds in a couple of places like total nonsense).
If the performance could benefit from fine-tuning, so could the script. Here and there, individual lines are quite funny and to the political point. But overall there is no shape, no arc, to Tings Dey Happen.It wanders from one character to another with little thrust or purpose, other than to give us an array of slightly characterized personalities. To be sure, by the end we are left with a vision of Nigeria that is depressing to say the least. Due to greed on all sides, the country's possibilities for greatness seem to have shriveled in the face of its one-crop economy. And despite the fierce words of the play's final character, CRO (Community Relations Officer), there is no certainty that Nigerians will be able to reclaim their country any time soon.
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Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide