Play: Living in Dog Time
21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com by Mike Daisey, INTIMAN Theatre, through 22 November.
You know, there should be more one-man shows starring fat white guys wearing black. No, really. I’ve had enough plays on multi-generational female families, thank you, or historical black experiences (most of them by August Wilson). This particular show hit a little closer to home. And it was a weird experience in which an all-too-familiar figure (not my evil twin, but my evil twin's cousin's best buddy) talked about his experiences at a large, successful corporation, and what happened after he decided to leave, framed around the watching the implosion of the Kingdome from the upper deck of the Amazon.com building (described by Mike Daisey as “Lex Luthor’s Freak House”).
It’s a one-man show with a minimal set – a desk made of a door on sawhorses (a bit of Amazon legacy), a laptop, and a cup of Starbucks. Daisey conjures the rest of his universe in a sprawling remembrance that captures corporate life pretty well. He bought into the “new hotness” for a time – he drank the koolaid, but found it eventually shallow and soul-killing, and had to leave it behind. And it followed him to what happened next.
A lot of the experiences he covers I’ve seen – they are not unique to Amazon.com. Dogs roaming the cubes? Been there. Strange motivational techniques? Oh yeah. Free food? Tell me about it. Goths on the job? Uh-Huh. How about finding that memo that details what everyone else in the department was making? Yep, that’s part of my life as well. Corporate life has some incredible similarities no matter where you are – the guy who spends his day checking his stock prices and playing video games two cubes over is not unique to the dot.com world.
Actually, what surprises me is that there aren’t as many plays about corporate life. Maybe it’s the fact that corporations provide the funding for a lot of theater that keeps them at a respectful distance. Indeed, Daisey is generally mild on Amazon, while saving his savaging for the now-defunct (and therefore defenseless) Pets.com, who Amazon teamed up with. His riffs on them left me gasping for breath.
Back to monologist Daisey - he is bright, engaging, vulgar, and hilarious, a man with a cause and a mean streak a mile wide. This is extended standup with a point, storytelling with a punchline, dissertation with a purpose. His geek cred is first-rate – when he’s fighting the evil memo, the music from “Amok time” plays. He pulled me in immediately, and I found a lot of common ground with his universe.
Again, Kate and I are split on decision – I loved it, and while she thought it was amusing, but pointed out Daisey himself wasn’t a particular virtuous character (which to my mind is part of the POINT – business life, even in the best of universes, does not reward virtuous behavior – the Boy Scout Oath is a sub-optimal operating system). However, since this is my blog, I get the heartily recommend it, and tell you to got see it. And I will ever further note that he’s doing a workshop performance of his next show, “The Ugly American” on November 23rd at 7 PM, at the INTIMAN.
More corporate theater. Yeah, I think the time has come. Go see this one.