My appreciation of Mike Daisey’s work (yeah, I’m a fan, what about it?) goes back to when Portland Center Stage produced 21 Dog Years six or seven years ago. Mike enjoyed a lengthy, extended run with packed houses every almost every night. Yet this was due more to his narrative skills and sheer strength of personality than the “play” itself, because already at that time his anti-Amazon rant had a shopworn feel. Though I saw and enjoyed the show many times, I couldn’t help but hope Mike would find material worthy of his immense talent.
And man, has he ever. In the interim he’s made friends and enemies galore with pieces such as How Theater Failed America and If You See Something Say Something. But the punch of the piece he and director Jean-Michele Gregory have brought to TBA:10, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, has a visceral power I haven’t seen before. Sure, I laughed out loud many, many times in the course of this show. But its emotional punch grabbed me just as often.
So much has been said already about the content of this two-hour tour de force that I’ll spare you another recap except to mention how Mike bookends the evening. He starts with a jocular reference to how we thought in the future we’d all constantly be “jacked in” to cyberspace by means of electrodes wired into our bodies. Laughable, right? But as he puts it: “The future never looks like what we thought it would; that’s why it’s called ‘the future.’” We may not be physically tethered to our portable electronics, but we’re jacked in all the same. And Mike’s wish, he says at the evening’s end, is to become a virus that infiltrates our code and changes the way we think.
Hence The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is ultimately a calls to arms. He points out that Apple went from Greenpeace’s “worst” list of environmental scoundrels to the top of its green list, all because the company perceived that its constituents — “people who go to the theater,” he says, looking around the auditorium — wanted to support a green company. So he asks us to do the same thing for working conditions, for the Chinese people “who make all our stuff.”
An earlier blog post expressed that opinion that Mike’s critique lacked rigor, but for me his demand that his audiences take action at least in regard to Apple (which he acknowledges is hardly the only American company turning a blind eye to monstrous working conditions) is what saves the evening from being a mere rant. “Our silence is our consent,” he says. To say nothing is to condone.
Alas, this monologue, which I wish everyone in Portland could see, closed last night. But you have one more chance to see Mike Daisey in action and in progress as he slouches toward the manically astounding goal of creating a live, 24-hour monologue entitled All the Hours in the Day. By attending you become part of the piece’s evolution, so check it out: this Saturday, September 18, 2:30pm at THE WORKS.