A man discusses how he recently lost his wife — to Facebook. The opening scene of “Each and Every Thing” details this exact situation, in which a woman reconnecting with an old boyfriend through social media prompts her to leave her husband. What follows is a catalog of distinct characters who grapple with technology in different ways, each played by Dan Hoyle, all based on real-life interactions.
In this one-man show, written by Hoyle and directed by Charlie Varon, Hoyle chronicles his own struggles with relying on technology while telling the stories of people with similar struggles whom he has encountered along the way. His search to find solace with technology includes frequent self-speculation — often with his confidant and best friend, Pratim — as well as a visit to India and a three-day digital detox retreat.
After the opening scene, Hoyle breaks the fourth wall to explain what he is aiming to convey with this story and how he came to write it. While it may be an interesting back story, the moment of exposition isn’t fully necessary, seeing as the plot is strong enough once it gets going. The story holds its own, with no explanation for it truly necessary. And the narrative finds its momentum through Hoyle, who plays a wild assortment of characters, including himself, with an endearing charisma that captivates throughout.
“Each and Every Thing” originally premiered in 2014 at The Marsh San Francisco. Hoyle came back to these characters, checking in with many of the real-life inspirations after the 2016 U.S. presidential election to address the effects of the political shift within America. The new version premiered at The Marsh Berkeley on July 13 and will run through Aug. 25.
Hoyle’s desire to distance himself from technology stems from a growing observations on the extent to which people have come to rely on their phones. He ruthlessly makes fun of aspects of the culture of smartphones — such as friends paying more attention to their phones than to each other and the easily distractible world of the internet. Each joke finds its humor in its intense relatability, which is instantly recognized by each audience member. Every joke hits its mark and is met with a roaring reception by the audience.
The play’s success undoubtedly stems from none other than Hoyle himself, whose immense talent shines brightly from every angle. Not only is his writing clever and original, but his acting ability is alluring. While the subject matter may be often parodied, this show actually integrates the message effectively, leaving audience members to contemplate taking time to step back from technology themselves.
In an engaging addition to the show, Hoyle implements a few instances of original song into the plot. Each song is unique, thought-provoking and relevant. The first of these songs achingly mourns the loss of reading physical newspapers. It’s unexpected, but it’s quickly accepted by audience members, who become entranced by each sudden musical number. The songs do more than showcase Hoyle’s far-reaching talents — they also fit seamlessly into the plot’s arc.
Most notably, however, Hoyle manages to do the one thing that all one-man shows strive to accomplish: He makes the audience forget that there is only one actor onstage. Hoyle doesn’t just impersonate the other characters; he becomes them. He changes his voice and uses varying physicalities to depict each character. Considering some characters only appear for a couple minutes, he still manages to make each one feel like a real person.
This ability is showcased throughout consistently, but it is especially evident during the portion of the play set at a digital detox retreat. The audience is introduced to a group of characters, all brought to the detox for different — yet all relatable — reasons. One doesn’t like how her friends are too focused on getting Instagram likes. Another is becoming increasingly wary of Facebook. Whatever their reason for being there, Hoyle makes you care about them in the short span of stage time they receive.
Hoyle wants people to be able to connect with each other, especially in the digital age. And by laying out his own story of how he took that step back from technology, he inspires audience members to do the same and remember how to chat offline.