Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mike Check: A Few More Words on L'Affaire Daisey | The Nation:

I didn’t learn much in that straight sense from Agony—I’d read NGO and news reports about Foxconn before—and never thought that was the show’s main point, anyway. Not having seen the note in the program labeling the show nonfiction (though if I had, it might not have mattered), I also didn’t take it to be unvarnished. Daisey’s honed prose and his fine-tuned performance—the well-placed sudden shouts, the comic slow takes, the repeated, careful small gestures—all pointed to admirable artifice, which at the very least always frames the factual. Nonetheless, Daisey was trying to strike a bargain with the audience that he could not keep, as if he could deliver the veracity of Lawrence Wright’s The Human Scale and My Trip to Al Qaeda—elegantly wrought, staged lectures by a seasoned journalist with a personable presence, but little acting skill and not a sliver of Daisey’s kinesthetic command onstage. Daisey belongs more to the varied tradition of Wally Shawn’s The Fever, Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia and Holly Hughes’s Preaching to the Perverted, works that twine personal narratives around journeys of political discovery or entanglement.

There’s a longstanding joke about performance artists doing psychotherapy onstage, and it’s true of myriad bad cases. But the best performers—like Daisey—put the audience in the shrink’s chair in a different manner: they prime us to listen for emotional honesty above all. And that is the truth I responded to and admired in his show: Daisey’s own ecstasy and agony, his abiding romance with his gorgeous iStuff and his disgust with the injustice of its production, his—and our—urgent and frustrated desire to reconcile those feelings with action. Like many of his shows I’ve seen, Agony traces an experience of seduction and betrayal. This time, in more ways than one.