Powering down your smartphone is part of the ritual at every theater performance. The difference with "Each and Every Thing" is that you may never want to turn the damn thing on again.
Dan Hoyle's latest solo show explores new territory from his previous one-man manifestos such as "The Real Americans" and "Tings Dey Happen." While Hoyle has always been a wanderer exploring the human psyche, one random encounter at a time, he rarely examines what part his own curiosity plays into the creation of these rambunctious mashups of art and journalism. In the quirky and intriguing "Each and Every Thing," directed by longtime collaborator Charlie Varon in its world premiere at the Marsh in San Francisco, Hoyle invites us into his own thinking process and guides us on his most emotionally vulnerable and personal piece yet.
Indeed, he prefaces the show with a discussion of his fascination with empathy, the way we connect to each other and the aspects of modern life that short-circuit our drive to know one another deeply. If the beginning of this show feels a little unnecessary, fear not. Hoyle soon gets to the crux of his quandary, how to carve out a sense of mindfulness in a white-noise world. A cheeky lament to the chatter and din of our ADHD age, "Each and Every Thing" forces you to examine just how ruled you are by the likes and retweets of the social media cult.
While the theme of information overload has been explored before, most recently in Caryl Churchill's explosive "Love and Information," Hoyle is such an endearing and open-hearted fellow that it's easy to lose yourself in this pithy journey from a touchy-feely digital detox retreat in Northern California to a famously cerebral Calcutta coffeehouse and back. As ever, he is a chameleon who sheds his skin with thrilling deftness as he etches a gallery of characters from a Chicago corner boy to an Aryan Nations bruiser in a Nebraska bar. Hoyle uses his elastic face and his unerring ear to parachute us in and out of so many different characters that the world of the play rushes at us like a flood of insight.
Granted, some of the motifs seem a little well-worn, such as the emptiness of being friended on Facebook and the spiritual mysteries of life in India. While the level of honesty here is refreshing, and his homage to the anti-conformist rants of his father Geoff Hoyle is priceless, some of the digressions should be trimmed.
But Hoyle's rap to the death of newspapers is a surprising gem, from his sadness at losing the scope of the front page to his guilty joy at skipping from panda videos to celebrity dish online. His trippy and giggling stoner road trip from Chicago to California is also a treat. And there is no way to resist the tart wit of a digital detox seminar with its hashtag-free zone.
This battle with Internet addiction is made all the more poignant because Hoyle is no Luddite. He knows the pleasures of checking your brain at the door and letting the screen swallow your sense of self with its barrage of pings and beeps.
Certainly he nails the endless dopamine rush of multitasking across digital platforms as well as the mirage of productivity that is answering useless emails for hours.
One departure with this work is that while Hoyle explores a lot of different people, one character, the BFF with the lilting Indian accent and the appreciation of nothingness returns so often that he threatens to steal the show. That throws off Hoyle's attempts to convey a wider sense of community.
Still it's hard to shake the almost hypnotic quality of this piece with its insistence that we try to actually live our lives instead of squandering them down the scrolling rabbit hole.
Written and performed
by Dan Hoyle
Through: July 13
Where: The Marsh,
1062 Valencia St.,
Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission