Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

Saying Something

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DC folks: You have three chances left to see If You See Something Say Something at Woolly Mammoth Theater Company. I highly recommend you take advantage of this.

IYSSSS is a one-man show. When we walked into the theater, the usher informed us, “It’s a two-hour performance and there will be no intermission.” I was scared. I’m a theater person who generally hates theater. Most theater is very, very bad, and maybe only one out of every five shows that I see do I not find myself getting incredibly bored around the one-hour mark and hoping it will end soon. A two-hour monologue did not seem like it was going to fare well against these odds.

But. It. Did. It helps that Mike Daisey, the show’s creator/writer/performer, is not only engaging and funny (pretty much a requisite of the one-person show genre, or at least one hopes), but the story he crafts—of the creators of the atom bomb, their career highs and lows, the Cold War, the arms race, the history of the Department of Homeland Security, the logic behind airport security, and his personal visit to Trinity (the site of the first nuclear bomb detonation)—is incredibly interesting and rich material. Daisey findsthe perfect balance between outrage (an outrage that is not partisan but just kind of humanist and logical) and ain’t-that-America nonchalance. His anecdotes are purposeful, though at times they may not seem that way at first—he winds and strays and curses and kids and just when you forget there may be any larger point at all, drops some major sort of anthropological observation so cutting and raw you are stunned from laughter into silence. But he doesn’t let these moments linger. He doesn’t play these moments big, like too many actors always seem want to do. He doesn’t beat you over the head with anything—he lets his point stand for just a moment, just a pause, just a glance, before launching into something lighter, like his irrational fear of getting pick-pocketed in Rome or the possibly-radiation-poisoned hamburger he ate at Trinity or just what it is that people in think tanks really do (or the line that keeps getting stuck in my head, but I think this is only because I really like Ben Franklin: “You know, Ben Franklin said, ‘Those that would trade safety for freedom deserve neither,’ because that was exactly the kind of BADASS thing Ben Franklin would say”). His timing is brilliant.

If you miss Daisey this time (and you shouldn’t, okay? Really, you just shouldn’t), he’ll be back at Woolly in January for a limited engagement of How Theater Failed America. In an interview on Gothamist, Daisey says:

The cost of theater [for audiences] is also out of scale with television, film and the internet, and in order to justify these higher prices theater needs to set a higher bar for itself, to create live events that are unique and compelling, and all too often it doesn’t try to compete, content to drift in a kind of miasmic nostalgia.

If you’re also a theater person who kinda hates theater too, it might be worth checking out (and tickets go on sale way in advance, starting next Monday).

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