Hoch Topic

| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:13

    Through Dec. 14, Danny Hoch will be performing his one-man show, Taking Over, at the Public Theater. The 90-minute performance finds Hoch playing a series of characters—from a cab dispatcher to a goofy girl selling T-shirts on Bedford Avenue—that have come to make up today’s Williamsburg.

    Hoch, a Queens native who’s called the Brooklyn neighborhood home for 20 years, has strong opinions about the hipsters, condos and cafés invading the neighborhood—in a preview of the show at an East Williamsburg high school, the crowd chanted “Go home!” at one of the characters—but will the Public’s audience, a crowd of a certain age that gentrified its own neighborhoods decades ago, respond?

    The crowd at the Grand Street Auditorium was very different than the crowd at the Public. What do you think the difference in the reaction to the show will be? Already it’s been fairly reserved and contained and afraid. The Public Theater audience tends to be a class-specific, politically left audience and that kind of audience likes its political and social discourse in a certain way that is not messy.

    Do you think the audience sees itself in the show? I think they do. I’ve already heard from a bunch of people I was not expecting to hear from who were really moved and still in conversation several days later about it. I also think that there’s only a certain extent to which people will identify with the perpetrators in the play because it’s always sexier to identify with the victims. The reality of it is, I’m talking about everybody—even myself.

    And are any of these people coming to you for answers? They are, and that’s good that the play asks really difficult, sharp, biting questions. I think people are defending themselves by saying that I don’t offer any answers. People who carry white guilt need to have it validated like a parking ticket. Nobody wants to acknowledge the economic footprint—the entire progressive left’s economic footprint in New York City from other parts of the United States—that’s billions of dollars that has displaced an uncounted amount of people. It’s not the right, it’s the left! It’s arguable, but you can say that the American left in New York and San Francisco and Chicago and Philadelphia is responsible for Bush for the last eight years. We didn’t need Kerry votes in New York from the hundreds of thousands of registered Democrats from every one of the 50 states. If we don’t want to look at that, how are we going to look at our own economic footprint when we buy soymilk or a croissant? I’m guilty—I buy rice milk. Actually, fuck that; I’m over that, I buy almond milk.

    When did you start to notice the changes in Williamsburg? The L Café is a good example, but it’s not just about Williamsburg. I have roots all over the city so you can take it back to the West Village or the Lower East Side or Flatbush. I think that the second I started to notice that New Yorkers’ voices and New Yorkers’ presence were not as valid as an American who just arrived six months ago, I said ‘Wait a second, I feel like I read this in a Camus book. This is colonialism.’

    Is Manhattan a lost cause? Yeah. I think that the city is like a castle—it’s called neofeudalism. It’s the European model, and the Americans are slow to catch up, but that’s what we’re doing. The real-estate broker in my play refers to it when he says that in 20 years the ghettos will all be in the suburbs. What’s happened with Manhattan is that the moat line used to be around the island, but now it’s in Brownsville, the north Bronx and Bloomfield, N.J. You can’t even live on the Lower East Side if you’re a hipster anymore. It’s a mall.

    So what about the people who do decide they’ve had their fill and move back to where they came from? That’s sad. What it means is that those folks were never invested here. I want to shoot those people, because all those Americans fled to the Blue states and allowed [Bush] to get elected, and now when it’s convenient, it’s easier for them to go home. This wasn’t home for those people, it was a cultural vacation.

    Have you thought about developing any more characters as the neighborhood continues to change? I’m sticking with my characters.

    Is there one you get more of a kick out of playing than the others? In the boroughs there are certain characters that resonate more, like the dispatcher. Not so much at the Public. They like him, but…

    They don’t have to call car services? Yeah.

    Of all the coffee shops and cafés that have opened, which one is your guilty pleasure? The fish market at Whole Foods. The one in Union Square, the Bowery is hard to go to.

    Through Dec. 14, Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. (near Astor Pl.), 212-967-7555; $60-$70.