ReviewBY LAUREN SMARTSpecial to The Post and Courier
For Mike Daisey’s new untitled monologue, a brown, clunky table replaces the slightly opaque, sleek glass one from “The Agony & the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” In addition to spatial and performer overlap, the monologues are inextricably linked by a scandal mentioned, but never explored.
A one-time premiere performance of a monologue Daisey called merely “a work in progress” took place in the Emmett Robinson Theatre Wednesday night.
Its rudimentary, 21/2-hour exposition of the aftermath of his fall from grace was an allegorical account of his trip to Europe that avoided addressing his scandal honestly.
Daisey’s “Agony and Ecstasy” monologue offered insight into Apple’s corporate structure and heartbreaking stories about the human-rights violations that result from outsourcing. When NPR exposed lies built into the narrative that Daisey claimed as truth, he found himself at the center of a scandal.
But any member of Wednesday night’s audience could have spent the entire evening without learning what broke Daisey. Instead we meet him as he travels the Orient Express with his wife, theater director Jean-Michele Gregory.
His story had no script, just an outline appearing to consist of anecdotes from the stops they made on their trip, beginning with a small town in England and moving to Paris then along to Istanbul.
About three stops in, I stopped enjoying his quips about Rick Steve’s travel guides and waited for something more expansive.
He neither reached the spectacle unique to his animated stories and impersonations nor a place of bold sincerity in which he could address the fact that he is protagonist and antagonist in this story.
Daisey is on this trip to rebuild an ego damaged by the scandal. He remarks that media coverage ripped his own mythology from him, a theme that runs through his oeuvre.
And he adopts a somber demeanor as he discusses how, in each town, he drew comparisons between cultural landmarks like the Berlin Wall or a statue of Lenin and himself in an effort to consider his own dishonesty and inner conflicts.
The aptly-dubbed “work in progress” is the story of a man whose stories grew bigger than he believed they would.
And when Daisey reaches Istanbul, it’s as though the master storyteller has returned. He humorously enacts his experience at a Turkish bath and an especially sensitive moment with his wife.
As he refines this monologue, I expect he will find more of this sort of poetry.
Lauren Smart is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse Univeristy.