Review BY RODNEY LEE ROGERS Special to The Post and Courier
Mike Daisey is a force of nature. There are few performers in the world who can hold an audience captive simply by telling a story behind a desk. Someone who can work a story deep into your subconscious and invite true insight is even more rare.
The question is not, should you participate in such an event, but should you miss the opportunity. Would you miss the chance to see Muhammad Ali box? Springsteen sing? Baryshnikov dance?
Daisey is like that. He posses a dizzying intellect, extraordinary wit and an infectious nature that creates works deeply moving and highly entertaining.
Daisey wants to understand, and he wants you to understand, pursuing his goal with the will of a wild-eyed, tenacious child. This intent envelops his work and is what drives his considerable powers forward. His tools are the imagination and the pure essence of the transformative quality that theater can create.
For the uninitiated, his brand of theater can be quite deceptive. A desk, a chair and a guy talking is not generally the recipe.
With his monologues, however, we are taken back to the earliest camp-fire stories: Lessons for life that move from the micro to the macro and back again. The approach is both modern and shamanistic at the same time. It is the essence of the theatrical ideal.
“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” finds the myth in our modern life. Daisey moves through the Kingdom of Apple and its now-departed King, whose greatest attribute was his ability to “knife the baby,” according to our monologist.
Steve Jobs changed the world — but is our desire for that world’s perfection and order so great that we refuse to look behind the curtain?
By spinning multiple story lines of his search for the truth, Daisey effortlessly shifts his quest back and forth from China to Silicon Valley in order to discover how things are made.
The effect reminds you of the time when you were in first grade, and the teacher asked you to think about all the people it took to make your clothes. Daisey’s examination juxtaposes our deep relationship to technology with religion.
The parallels he draws and the characters he introduces are dizzying in their complexity and detail, but they all lead to an unexpected place.
Daisey’s ability to get into your imagination is uncanny. He is relentless. At one point he playfully refused to continue until the audience absorbed his point.
Slowly he works on you with that desire to understand. The point, it seemed, was to achieve some understanding of our world. But his real achievement was to illuminate that which is within ourselves.