By admin on Oct 28, 2008 | In ATW Reviews
"Knowledge equals power" is a familiar phrase and for monologist Mike Daisey, the adage is certainly applicable, but with one caveat: knowledge can also equal fear, particularly in our world today. In If You See Something Say Something, the piece which Daisey opened last night at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater, Daisey shares some of his knowledge – from specific details of the Patriot Act to the history of the development of the atomic bomb. Along the way, he also shares, as always, his mordant, and sometimes hilarious, commentary on the times in which we live
The title of the piece, alone, should give theatergoers a sense of Daisey's cleverness. By omitting the comma from the MTA's ubiquitous advertising campaign aimed at preventing terrorism, the performer, who works extemporaneously from notes, ingeniously signals that this is a talkback of sorts ("say something") about the government's response to terrorism and war in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Good portions of the piece are dedicated to the lives of Sam Cohen, who participated in the Manhattan Project, and his life after World War II at the RAND Corporation, one of the country's first 'think tanks," and Herman Kahn, whose "On Thermonuclear War," was a seminal treatise during the Cold War. Daisey uses the events in these men's lives, and the dissolution of their friendship to grandly illustrate how public policy and opinion can be perverted because of personal interest.
Daisey intersperses his historical narrative with are personal anecdotes. Perhaps most effective is Daisey's description of what extents he went to to protect his wallet after he was pickpocketed on his first day in Rome. He ironically and cuttingly describes his behavior as being "reactive security." When he smiles knowingly as he says this, theatergoers instantly understand the dig he's making. Daisey's descriptions of a junk dealer who sells trash that he gets while dumpster-diving outside of companies contracted to develop weapons is equally cutting, particularly when he turns to the subject of an anthrax cooker.
Working under the direction of Jean-Michele Gregory, Daisey delivers "Say Something" with exceptional animation while seated behind a table, and while one wishes that Gregory might have helped Daisey to prune some of the piece, it's never any less than fascinating, and often is much more: cutting, humorous, and immensely provocative. The changes in the performer's tone and subjects are supported with grace by K.J. Hardy's lighting design, and ultimately, "Say Something" lingers in the mind well after Daisey has left the stage.
---- Andy Propst
If You See Something Say Something plays through November 30 at Joe's Pub the Public Theater (425 Lafayette Street). Performances schedule varies. For tickets ($40-$60) and complete schedule information visit: www.publictheater.org. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 212-967-7555.
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