The Unbearable Banishment: The Cult of the U.S.A.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Cult of the U.S.A.

I saw the young(ish) and talented Mike Daisey perform his latest monologue at The Public Theater, The Last Cargo Cult. I love The Public Theater. I fell in love there on two separate occasions!

This time around, Mr. Daisey visits an island in the South Pacific that's purported to be untouched by money and commerce. He juxtaposes this against last fall’s economic meltdown and gives a pretty sobering assessment of the stranglehold the Investment Banking community has on this nation. Yes, there are lots of laughs, but you do end up feeling like the victim of white collar crime. Which you are.

He employs the best gimmick I’ve ever seen in a show. As you walk in, ushers hand out money in various denominations to the audience. I got $10! As you can imagine, everyone was in a pretty good mood when the show started, although the people holding $1 were wondering why they weren't given $20.

It comes to pass that the money handed out is Mr. Daisey’s pay for that evening. At the conclusion of the show, he places a crystal bowl on stage and you have to decide whether not to give it back. He makes it abundantly clear that he needs the money for the rent and the audience means very little to him in a fiscal sense because, as he points out, we are a faceless mob sitting in the dark who will be replaced the next night. Brilliant! I gave my $10 back. I would love to find out how much he recovered.

He takes an unnecessary detour out to the Hamptons to tell a side-story about a paid appearance for a mega-wealthy audience. (“My annual salary is a rounding error to them.”) It was amusing but it momentarily took me out of the matter at hand. I wish I had a tape of the entrance music.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

this sounds pretty brilliant... and to me, captures what thoughtful theater can do unlike any other medium... you were part of the show...

December 9, 2009 at 3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent! i'm guessing the people with the $1 bills weren't bitching then. hell, if it were me who got the $1, i'd even throw in another 10-spot for good measure if the show was that good.

hmmm...maybe that's what he was counting on!

December 9, 2009 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Daisy: It *was* a pretty brilliant. After it was reviewed, everyone knew what the deal was with the money, so they were gypped out of a unique experience. Go before the reviews are in!

Gnu: Actually, he mentioned that you should feel free to put in more money than what you were given! People have been walking out with the money. How could they do that?!

December 9, 2009 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger Ellie said...

Great gimmick! I wonder if anyone gave more back than they received. I can't imagine anyone not giving it back.

December 10, 2009 at 1:11 AM  
Anonymous nursemyra said...

A good gimmick indeed!

December 10, 2009 at 3:33 AM  
Blogger Sid said...

I wonder if I would have given the money back. If it was a good show then I probably would have given it back to him.

December 10, 2009 at 6:04 AM  
Blogger Poindexter said...

wow - sounds like an entertaining and thought provoking performance rolled into one. He must be very insightful, or intellectual, or maybe just imaginative, not sure.

December 10, 2009 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Ellie: Actually, Mr. Daisey post on his blog that the audience that gave him the quickest standing O was also the quickest out the door with his money!

Nurse: Did you visit The Public Theater during your time here?

Sid: I know you. You would have given it back and then some.

Point: He's been at it a long time and has become the premier story teller in the theater world.

December 10, 2009 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Bastard said...

I wonder how many substituted a 5 for a 10?

Tell me you did think about it..

December 10, 2009 at 1:30 PM  

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