Wednesday, October 29, 2008

If You See Something Say Something


Created and Performed by Mike Daisey, Directed by Jean-Michele Gregory. (CLOSED)

(Critic-O-Metered by Isaac Butler)

With the exception of the Associated Press, critics are quite taken with Mike Daisey's new monologue. If You See Something Say Something weaves together more of Daisey's autobiographical storytelling with threads about the secret history of the Homeland Security apparatus in America, the making of the atomic bomb and the various ways that we trade liberty for security in our every day lives.

Variety A
(Mark Blankenship) As always, his volcanic performance style, expertly shaped by long-time collaborator Jean-Michele Gregory, cements the impact of his writing. Sitting behind a table, dabbing his face with a black handkerchief as he references notes from a yellow legal pad, Daisey treats his message like a secular sermon. In a single anecdote, he can be everything from a hysterical drinking buddy to the most convincing town council member, and his shifting energy keeps his work alive.

TheaterMania A-
(Dan Bacalzo) here's a great deal of information that Daisey imparts, but like any good teacher, he demonstrates a passion for his material that draws his audience in. The writer/performer also occasionally breaks from a straightforward detailing of the facts to put words in the mouths of famous historical personalities like George Washington, using contemporary (and profane) slang for humorous effect.

TalkinBroadway A-
(Matthew Murray) Daisey both convinces you of the depths of our current mess, and points to what's needed to help us survive it: information. This weapon, he argues, is one that neither the government nor terrorists can take away, though it only works if you own it. His show, as funny as it is provocative, is one heck of a sales pitch.

Bloomberg B+
(Jeremy Gerard) See Something is sprinkled with self-deprecating anecdotes, but it never veers too far from its central point. Two good things did come from 9/11, he concludes: reinforced cockpit doors and reinforced passenger awareness of the kind that led to the supreme self-sacrifice of the travelers on that fourth jet, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Neither owes anything to government bureaucracy.

NJ Star-Ledger B+
(Michael Sommers) Despite the ultimate gloom of his outlook, Daisey's engaging ways are so swift and energized that If You See Something Say Something essentially registers as a sharply humorous commentary on our troubled times.

The New York Times B+
(Charles Isherwood) Mr. Daisey is as much a performer as a raconteur, employing a wider range of vocal dynamics than the gentle-toned Mr. Gray did, a choice that sometimes enhances but occasionally detracts from the impact of his words. (A more understated delivery might also result in less profuse perspiration. The constant brow-mopping can be distracting.)

NYPost B+
(Frank Scheck) despite its flaws and occasionally rambling style, If You See Something Say Something succeeds in delivering observations about its important subject that are as entertaining as they are thought-provoking.

NY Daily News B+
(Joe Dziemianowicz) Monologist Mike Daisey is back with a new rant. Watching his show directed by Jean-Michele Gregory at Joe's Pub, If You See Something Say Something, two things quickly emerge: Daisey sweats like mad, and he's a crazy- good storyteller. Homeland security is the topic of his impressively researched, artfully constructed show, which is framed by his trip to the New Mexico site of the original atomic bomb test.

Backstage B+
(A.J. Mell) Mike Daisey looks and sounds a bit like a chubby colicky baby, if said baby happened to possess a blazing verbal facility and acute political intelligence. A blond, youthful-looking performer in his mid-30s, the acclaimed monologuist takes on post-Sept. 11 paranoia in general—and the homeland security apparatus in particular—in this alternately amusing and disturbing rant at the Public Theater's Joe's Pub.

CurtainUp B
(Elyse Sommer) Daisey is well rehearsed so that he seems to works more or less extemporaneously and those legal pad pages are strictly a prop to establish a sort of between scenes pause that marks the move to another topic; thus, the show may vary quite a bit from performance to performance. For example, the press preview I attended last Thursday ran almost two hours which is a too long visit with this material. I would have been happier with the 90-minute performance seen by several colleagues on the following night.

(Matt Windman) In his best bit of comedy, Daisey describes the procession of Homeland Security secretaries as "political theater at its most simple and effective." First is Tom Ridge, who had no knowledge of terrorism whatsoever; followed by Bernard Kerick, who was indicted on 16 counts before he could be appointed; and Michael Chertoff, a co-author of the Patriot Act who bears a resemblance to Skeletor.

Associated Press C-
(Peter Santilli) Theatergoers interested in this timely subject—the pursuit of safety in an unsafe world—should find something compelling in this show, which opened Monday at Joe's Pub, the Public Theater's intimate cabaret space. But those looking for something more may be disappointed by Daisey's mostly tepid humor and straightforward, at times dour, delivery.

Variety A 13; TheaterMania A- 12; TalkinBroadway A- 12; Bloomberg B+ 11; Star-Ledger B+ 11; NYTimes B+ 11; NYPost B+ 11; Daily News B+ 11; Backstage B+ 11; Curtainup B 10; AMNY B 10; AP C- 6; TOTAL = 129 / 12 = 10.75 B+

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