'The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs'

10.18.11
Mike Daisey
NY Daily News

By Joe Dziemianowicz

'The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs' review: Mike Daisey tells it like it is about Apple giant

Apple iPhones don't grow on trees, despite the fruity name. But where do they come from? Who makes them? And how?

You've probably never even wondered about that as you've tapped away and texted.

But monologist Mike Daisey has.

His solo show, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," is designed to make you do likewise.

In this piercingly provocative and stingingly funny piece at the Public, Daisey charts the profound and not- always-pretty impact that Jobs and Apple, the company he co-founded, have had on the world in both digital and human terms.

The show weaves together two journeys.

One is Daisey's decades-long trek to being a diehard computer geek and "Apple fanboy" who relaxes by pulling apart his fancy laptop and then putting it back together.

The death of Jobs on Oct. 5 gives the show topicality, but it has really been written for ages - ever since Daisey fell hard for technology.

The other expedition is the storyteller's trip to Shenzhen, China, where Apple products are manufactured in a "Blade Runner"-like industrial zone.

While there, Daisey schemes his way into a massive factory and the inhumane conditions make him reel.

In earlier shows like "The Last Cargo Cult" and "If You See Something, Say Something," Daisey has proven himself as the master of the monologue.

His writing has never been more vivid, and his techno expertise gives "Agony" a persuasive authority.

Despite the high-tech topic, he keeps things accessible. As he discusses Jobs' legendary need for control, he says he isn't a micro-manager. He's "a nano-mmikeanager."

He's also Daisey's hero - and one of the potent things about the show is a man coming to terms with a hero who lets him down.

Per usual, the show is directed by longtime collaborator and wife, Jean-Michele Gregory, and finds Daisey seated at a desk. He doesn't budge, but Seth Reiser's grid-like backdrop piped with tiny lights constantly changes to compelling effect.

At two hours, "Agony" has flab. That includes a long-winded section about Chinese business cards, which even Daisey admits "you had to be there" to appreciate. So cut it.

At times, a preachy tone blurs the line between monologue and a muckraking sermon. After the show, you get a sheet with steps to take "if you choose not to ignore what you've learned."

Last Friday, when I saw the show, the iPhone 4S had just come out, drawing hordes of shoppers.

Daisey was selling something else: iShame. In his domain, there's an app for that.