On my ride to the Grace Theater to watch “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” a quasi-autobiographical search for truth in the technology business, I listened to my music on a secondhand iPod without a second thought — the ride home, however, was different.
This piece, a one-man show by Mike Daisey and acted by Thomas Preece, follows the escapades of Daisey as he travels from California to China to fulfill his desire to really know the cost of his latest gadget. Daisey, a self proclaimed geek and Apple aficionado, intersperses historical content that gives a basis for which we the audience can begin to understand Jobs’s genius with findings from his visit to Shenzhen, the city where all of our stuff is made. During the sections describing his trip to China, we get a much darker look into the true cost of our latest gadget, or latest device, and we begin to learn in a little less comfortably what the money we spend truly helps to fund.
Preece, the single actor and a first-time Festival 56 member, performed incredibly for his premiere role here in Princeton. While acting is not easy, being the only actor in a two-hour show provides a very unique and different set of challenges that Preece handled superbly. Using different voices, body language and props we are able to view entire conversations without any doubt of what is going on. The intensity, which can only be described as taxing, grows over the course of the show and really drives the powerful message home.
In a show like this, the tech side of the theater almost becomes a second actor, playing off of the actor and in a way, providing the other side of the theater coin. The sound and light cues of this show were built in such a way that they never overshadowed our actor, but played off him and added to his monologues brilliantly — whether through moving location for different stories or playing the strains of Bach in juxtaposition to the brilliant genius we find in Jobs himself.
Along with the more traditional tech, director Georgia Mallory Guy made the choice to have some visual projections to add to the experience. What really makes this experience unique is the availability of these projections and the encouragement that we, the audience, have our smart devices out so that we can follow along, seeing some extra tidbits of knowledge that will help immures us and add to our experience.
Another unique feature of this show is that following every show, there will be time for a talk back session led by Preece discussing the topic of the work. For me, this was a very powerful time as I got to process on a little more personal level. It is a heavy topic, and having the processing time was very meaningful to me.
Due to language, the script itself is not family friendly. It is written as if Mike Daisey were talking to us, and apparently he has somewhat of a foul mouth, but in all honesty, the script would not be as powerful without the language that is used. I highly recommend it for mature audiences, and would very much go and see it a second time.
The show runs Dec. 13, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and at 2 p.m. Dec. 14. Tickets can be bought at online at festival56.com or by calling the box office at 815-879-5656.
Aaron Kaufmann of Tiskilwa, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in music education and a minor in theater, can be reached at email@example.com.