“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” Mike Daisey’s timely one-man show, centers on the life (and, as an afterthought, death) of Steve Jobs and the shady practices surrounding the technology whiz’s iconic business conglomerate. The writer-actor’s infectious enthusiasm and love for his subject is the piece de resistance that invests us in the allegory and makes its grimness even harder to bear. It takes us from the shallow comforts of our warm computer screen glow to the bowels of China where anything Apple is built on the backs of workers of whose ages are as questionable as the company’s ethics. Daisey parcels our medicine about the dark side to this IT titan in a spoonful of candy-like anecdotes that we can’t stop gorging on. It’s the rare balance of information and comedy that’s key to hooking audiences in the Jon Stewart news world.
The monologue runs nearly two hours without an intermission. Though there’s minimal staging (a light board, table and chair), and Daisey remains seated throughout, the performance comes off as a physical feat. The material is a high-wire balancing act best left to one who understands comedic timing, audience tolerance and energy allotment — such as its author.
The one downside is that it’s missing the firm hand of an editor who isn’t too close to the source.
There’s no doubt that a slightly tighter script would seal the seams on a nearly flawless show.
Understandably, Jobs’ sudden passing just over a week before opening night meant that the play’s ending was abruptly tweaked — and doubled in weight sheerly by the burden of context — but the dramatic judgment passed in the last minutes could benefit from a delivery as curt as it is acrid and astute.