Say Anything

C.C. would like to thank Joe’s Pub and the Public Theater for reaching out and offering us tix to a “blogger friendly performance” of Mike Daisey’s “If You See Something Say Something.” This is great news for bloggers and another example of a trend of performance venues offering press tickets to bloggers. The deal is that bloggers get to see the performance gratis, and then are expected to “say something” about it. (Cute, no?) So here we go, saying something like we always do: By writing an awesome review! Let’s get started:

Theater Review: Mikey Daisey’s “If You See Something Say Something”

daiseySelf-described “monologuist” and “schmuck” Mike Daisey has an obsession with the nuclear bomb and an axe to grind with our government. It’s a wonder that he hasn’t been picked up in some kind of Department of Homeland Security sweep.

But the only weapon Daisey is interested in using is the spoken word, a force he wields with precise and winding endurance in “If You See Something Say Something,” his latest monologue now running at Joe’s Pub. The work takes up the subject of The Patriot Act and other outrageous actions our federal government took in the year following the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, a year Daisey incredulously points out was probably the most efficient year of governance in our nation’s history, while also delving into the life story of Sam Cohen, one of the fathers of tactical nuclear warfare.

Armed with little more than an interrogation-style table, a glass of water, a microphone, a mysterious black box, and a hefty arsenal of f-bombs, Daisey takes us on a journey to White Sands, New Mexico, the site of the first nuclear bomb test, where he made a pilgrimage on the one day a year the government opens the grounds to the public, making pit stops in Rome, the South Pacific, his childhood bedroom, and Los Alamos, the epicenter of US weapons research, and what Daisey calls “inch for inch the deadliest place on earth.”

Daisey’s deft combination of incredulity (at Congress for passing the 900 page Patriot Act in five days; Conclusion: “They didn’t fucking read it!”) and poignancy (when he goes to the Bradbury Science Museum and finds there is no mention of Japanese casualties when discussing the Hiroshima/Nagasaki attacks because hypothetical US deaths “erased” real Japanese lives) makes for theater that is as entertaining as it is informative, even meaningful–a gambit a lot of contemporary performance artists demure from.

But these are precisely the poles that govern our experience in a world swaddled in terror. The shock is serious and devastating, but our responses are just as often irrational and absurd.

Daisey sends up ineffectual post-9/11 airport security that does more to keep us freaked out than it actually does to deter terrorism (guess what: they still don’t have equipment that can detect bombs in shoes, even if you take them off!), pointing out how the pleasure we derive from adapting to the new rules of airport security (or really, of any new violation of our rights in the name of security; hello, random bag checks New Yorkers!) substitutes for, or distracts us from, the anxiety that orange alerts and privacy violations exact upon our psyche. The faster you adjust, the more painless the experience.

Daisey also has a gift for connecting history to our present experience of the world. Through shear slight of word, he is able to posit that the American experience of terror predates 9/11 by about sixty years, and is of a more self-inflicted source: a single atomic detonation in the sands of the Trinity blast area, a place where, today, things like praying, or talking about Hiroshima and Nagasaki are prohibited by privately contracted security masking as military personnel; where everything is outsourced, leaving the center empty.

And it’s this emptiness that Daisey seems set against. Whether it is the hushing of personal expression at Trinity, or the lack of music during the part of a Bradbury documentary that shows the footage of the first mushroom cloud (a cliche that is also used, I believe, in John Adam’s Dr. Atomic), Daisey, through his performance, gives voice to the many experiences of life that we so often have no words to express. One monologue after another, Daisey fills those terrifying nodes with feelings, thought and reason, even for the most unreasonable realities.

Subtle lighting shifts by K.J Hardy articulate each transition. And direction, by Jean-Michele Gregory, keeps this sprawling narrative decisively on message.

If You See Something Say Something” runs on select dates through November 30.


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