Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mike Daisey: "The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs" ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

It's almost impossible to compare "The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs" with "The Last Cargo Cult," both of which are written and performed by the monologist Mike Daisey, and are playing in repertory at Berkeley Rep.

In both, Daisey sits behind a desk and spins his story, but whereas in "Cargo Cult" you hear a story that is fun but played for laughs, "The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs" hits you in the gut. It is still very funny, but the world you live in changes after you see this show.

The difference between the two shows is easy to see -- this one hits Mike Daisey where he lives too. He is a true techno-file, and has been an Apple maniac since his first Apple 2C. The narrative is divided into two alternating story lines -- the first, which is a veritable history of the computer industry with an emphasis on Apple and its co-founder Steve Jobs; and the second, which is a first-hand report of a trip Daisey made to Southern China and the appalling and eye-opening conditions he found existing in the factory where "they produce 52% of the electronics in the entire world. That means half of all YOUR shit."

We get fabulous images, told by a man who is more than a tourist (which is how he comes across in "Cargo Cult"). He is a true believer who is trying hard to hang onto his faith. We see the Hong Kong markets "where cell phones hang on wires like freshly caught fish," the godawful city of Shenzen, only a few decades ago a fishing village with seven thousand people but now the third largest city in China with more than fourteen MILLION inhabitants; and we hear about the grinding daily lives of the workers who turn out to be anxious to speak with the large American in the Hawaiian shirt.

In between we get a fascinating story about Steve Jobs himself, the mad genius who built Apple but was impossible to work with, and what happened to him and to the corporation when he was removed from power and then rehired a dozen years later. In Daisey's blog he speaks about his sorrow at Jobs's current resignation from Apple for health reasons, and how no one can imagine the company continuing without him.

These are words from someone who drank the Apple Kool-Aid a long time ago but is asking all of us to at least consider the cost in Chinese lives, before we plunk down many hundreds for more new, slick, well-designed gadgets. We have to report that we too found ourselves staring differently this morning at our snappy and shiny MacBook Pro. (Sigh. It sure is nice, though.)

Go see this show. Put DOWN the I-Pad. Go.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards Mike Daisey's "The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs" Four SOLID stars, and if he wants to add a few musical numbers we will think about raising it. One comment he makes at the end of the show (and remember, this is a long evening -- two hours with no letup, no costume changes, no car chases and no intermission) has stuck with us all day: with all the complaining and whining in the first world about how machines have taken over our production, the fact is that the most complex electronic gizmos in our world are basically made by hand in China by workers laboring like they did in cloth factories in England in 1850.

That's what we get with "hand made." It makes this reporter wonder where is the Chinese Charles Dickens?

Mike Daisey: "The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs"
Berkeley Repertory Theater, Thrust Stage
2025 Addison Street, Berkeley
In repertory with "The Last Cargo Cult," through February 27.
$34-$73, many discounts available


Anonymous said...

RIP blog
rot into pieces

DAK said...

Hi Fan Tomb. Usually I delete these comments when they don't say anything about anything, but I like yours. R.I.P. 'rot into pieces.' Ha! Good one! No, can't say I'll hurry over to your website, but thanks.