Solo playwright-performer Dan Hoyle is such a gifted actor, so transformative and empathetic, that it almost doesn’t matter what his characters — 11 in “Border People,” a world premiere at The Marsh — actually say. He inhabits them so fully, whether black, white or Latinx, gay or straight, male or female, that his performance alone connects us to the “other” in the way that intimate theater at its very best can do.
But the text, brought to such vibrant life, is indeed enthralling, sometimes heartbreaking, more often funny.
Hoyle edited and shaped the monologues for the stage, with his wonderful longtime collaborator and director, Charlie Varon, from interviews he conducted, after the divisive 2016 election, on our Canadian and Mexican borders and in the projects of New York.
Some characters are composites; all are distinct individuals, crafted entirely without the aid of costumes or props — basically just Dan and a stool on an empty stage.
The “other,” in this case, is a host of people, in a host of different circumstances, struggling to construct a meaningful life. Some have given up hope.
All are caught between identities, nationalities and cultures and include asylum-seekers, refugees, immigrants.
There’s the Korean martial arts expert in the Bronx who’s experiencing a “black male crisis of authenticity.” He says he dresses in business casual these days: “I’m like the black Rick Santorum,” he jokes.
There’s “Mike Evans,” a Mexican who renamed himself when he immigrated here as a little kid — before he got in trouble and ended up deported back south of the border. “All my life I thought I was an American,” he says. “Now I’m an exile.”
There’s the young immigrant whose mother reminds her, “We’re from the projects, but we’re not the projects.”
There’s a rancher in Arizona who lives off the grid and “aids and abets” refugees crossing the border; the Honduran kid who speaks in Spanish (with subtitles); the African-American janitor who says you can’t avoid conflict, and sometimes you have to make a scene for your rights; a Mexican with HIV trapped between cultures and countries; an inquisitive cop named Lopez who stops Hoyle on an Arizona highway; an Iraqi woman, a Saudi Arabian, a guy from Kabul who fled the Taliban.
Following his 2014 “Each and Every Thing,” this is another one of Hoyle’s deeply moving solo shows; he’s a master of his craft by now, and a San Francisco treasure for sure.
Presented by The Marsh
Where: 1062 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 5 p.m. Saturdays, closes Feb. 23
Tickets: $25 to $100
Contact: (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org