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Paulanne Simmons

"The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs"


"The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs"
Directed by Jean Michelle Gregory
Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
Opened Oct. 17, 2011
Tues. thru Sun. at 8pm, Sat. & Sun. at 2pm
Tickets: $75-$85 (212) 967-7555
Extended to Dec. 4, 2011
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Nov. 18, 2011


Monologist Mike Daisey’s new show, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," directed by his wife and collaborator, Jean-Michelle Gregory, at first seems like a typical story of a nerd and his computer. Sure, there’s a lot about Steve Jobs and how he started his legendary business with high school buddy Steve Wozniak. But there are also all those traditional tales of woe about Daisey’s love/hate relationships with computers, specifically how they work, don’t work and ultimately change our lives. And Daisey, with his large body and demented expressions, is the perfect man to represent the computer geeks of the world.

Then Daisey begins inserting stories of his journey to the place where Apple products are made, the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China. It wasn’t easy getting into the factory at first. The entrance is guarded by men wielding guns, and the officials, who govern most everything in China, were obviously not eager to grant him access. But Daisey, who is nothing if not persistent, got himself a car, a driver and a translator, and began interviewing workers as they left the factory. What they revealed would trouble even the most ardent computer geek.

Mike Daisey at The Public Theater. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Daisey reports shifts as long as 34 hours and workers as young as 13. He tells horrifying stories of people who suffer nerve damage because the plant uses quick-drying chemicals that are toxic to the human body. He relates how a man was fired and offered no compensation when his hand was crushed while making the metal casing for iPads and he became useless to Foxconn.

For Daisey, the worst of it all is that his hero, Steve Jobs, did nothing about these abuses.

About half the world’s electronics are made at the Foxconn factory. So why pick on Jobs? For Daisey, and all those who regard Jobs as a hero, the answer is simple. Jobs was the only one with the stature to have made a difference. This man who led the industry with so many technological innovations surely knew what was going on in the factories that made those innovations come to life, yet he chose to do nothing.

Daisey has been performing this piece since July 2010, and with the recent death of Steve Jobs, sone might say that Daisey is beating a dead horse. But the vile practices he exposes still go on at Foxconn, and many, including this writer, were not aware of all these abuses. Others might find the show somewhat moralizing. Who wants to spend an evening being preached to by a fat man sitting at a glass desk and occasionally sipping water?

For these people I have only one answer. This review is being typed on a MacBook Pro. After I finish writing the review, I will pick up the information sheet handed out after the show and follow its suggestions. I will write to Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cook. I will educate myself about what is happening in China. I will tell others.


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