Sunday, June 01, 2008

How Theater Failed America

Spalding Grey meets Chris Farley? I don't know how else to really talk about the manic energy that Mike Daisey brings to such serious and well-spoken topics, but it's his cross of personal stories and irrepressible personality that make this man such a powerful monologist. Because he spends the whole evening sitting at a table, there's no sense of showboating and, because he speaks without a script (extemporaneously, to a well-rehearsed extent), his connection with the audience seems more direct, more intimate. The play isn't so much How Theater Failed America, so much as it is How Theater Failed Mike Daisey, and as he quickly glosses past Charles Isherwood, Disney, and the big "capital T" Theater industry, that's something to be glad for. Daisey's story is far more interesting, from his inspiring school days to intrepid theater company work to suicidal dejection and the "super fucked up" garage theaters of Seattle. The play is filled with well-spoken insights about the regional machine-like "freeze-dried" actor model or the ironic atrophy of institutions that, having made the money to take risks, now become too afraid to take them, along with witty observations, like how subscriptions are "an opportunity to be randomly fucked in the ass." If the theater has failed, nights like this are exceptions that hopefully don't prove the rule.

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