Variety reviewed Danny Hoch’s Taking Over in LA recently. I disagree with a big chunk of the review (as you can imagine if you’ve read about my love for the play already), but was particularly digusted by this:
In the most affecting sequence, ex-con Kiko ambles over to chat up a film crew. Hoch and helmer Tony Taccone evoke the excruciating pain as an (unseen) P.A. pulls away from the man’s attempt to connect, even with an offer of free labor. Kiko explodes — “You understand what I’m sayin’ to you? You look. At me.” — but his abject apology and hunched-over frame clearly indicate he’ll be back in the joint real soon.
The Kiko section is indeed very powerful — lots of folks have told me that it was their favorite part of the show. It’s complicated and deep and speaks to that basic human emotion that we all feel when we want something so simple and innocent but are forbidden from having it for the stupidest and most intractable of reasons. all that’s true. But let me repeat that last line:
Kiko explodes — “You understand what I’m sayin’ to you? You look. At me.” — but his abject apology and hunched-over frame clearly indicate he’ll be back in the joint real soon.
Really? That’s what you take from that moment? The guy apologizes, holds in everything that’s bubbling to the surface in the face of someone coming into his neighborhood, taking from his neighborhood, not giving back to his neighborhood — this guy catches himself after an outburst of anger at the fact that someone, some lowly member of a film crew at that, someone that this guy is showing respect, someone who has the chance to make an impact on his life by bending the simplest of rules to allow the guy to save some face in front of his mother after getting out of jail and attempting to show that he’s getting his life on track — he does all this, and the moment breaks your heart — and you think that all shows that he’s destined to go back to jail?
I swear, there’s a massive cultural gap at play here, and it’s something that demands attention. Keep in mind who is reviewing the plays when you read those reviews, folks. Some people just don’t get what they’re seeing.