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Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Agony of Underpaid Labor

Mike Daisey on Steve Jobs

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A few years back, monologist Mike Daisey investigated a factory in China where electronics are manufactured. Tying horror stories of labor in the factory with the story of Apple's legendary CEO, Daisey created The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. This past weekend, The World's Stage Theatre Company staged a production at Next Act Theatre.

Robby McGhee delivered the monologue in the role of Daisey—a man who is very passionate about Apple products. And since he's also a man with a conscience, he's interested in finding out where these products come from and the conditions under which they are made. McGhee delivered the more compassionate end of the character quite vividly to the stage. The more sophisticated end of Daisey's sense of humor seems to have been lost on McGhee's performance, however. This is strange considering McGhee's background in some truly amazing improv. Daisey's sense of humor is harrowingly idiosyncratic. Miss even the slightest change in inflection and it feels awkward and poorly written. This happened far too often in McGhee's performance. The overall flow of the performance didn't suffer from being out of synch with the humor, however. The conscience of the piece is by far the most important aspect and McGhee delivered it quite well.

Sadly, Daisey's look at labor in China isn't particularly shocking. In the U.S., we never really got rid of slavery—we simply outsourced most of it and stopped talking about it as much. There's blood all over everything we buy. We all know this. It will take much more than stern words to make us wake up to what we already know.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs ran for one weekend only. For more information about World's Stage Theatre Company, visit facebook.com/worldsstagetheatre