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Recap: American Utopias at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Arty Pants
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Remember when Mike Daisey made a big fool of himself? A few years ago, he put on a brilliant, moving monologue called “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”

Cori Sue and I saw it at the Woolly and held each other’s hands in shock at the horror that Mike described–that he said he witnessed–in Apple’s factories in China.

Then, a few months later, the news came out that it was lies. Nearly all lies. We breathed a sigh of relief and continued using our Apple devices with marginally less guilt (we know Apple’s factories are far from perfect).

So, it was with hesitation that I went to his second show at the Woolly, called “American Uptopias.”

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Thankfully, this show was not as heavy as the “Jobs” monologue, and was immediately introduced by Daisey as “a true story, but all stories are fiction.” Huh? Instead of being horrified and near tears, I found myself laughing so hard that occasionally, yes, I was near tears.

Sitting behind a desk on an empty stage, Mike weaves three different tales: His hilarious trip to–and trips during–Burning Man, his connection to people involved in the Occupy movement in Zuccotti Park, and, finally, a ridiculously funny week-long family trip to Disneyworld. Each of them showcase three very different types of crowds, public assemblies, audiences, and the like.

Each of the stories are so different, funny in their own right, but telling. Are the people at these three very different American locales actually different at all? How are the fanatic Disneyland families different from the drug-fueled strangelings at Burning Man?

Mike challenges the audience to think about the American experience from different perspectives. And then he challenges: You’re an audience. This is a public assembly. Think about that.

Then, just when I thought it was over, Mike jumped off the stage and ran out the back door, beckoning us all to follow. We laughed awkwardly, the lights went up, and we all made our way out to the corner of 7th and D Street in Penn Quarter, where Mike was standing on a box, continuing his monologue, in–why, yes–a different setting. A very public setting, outside the confines of the theater’s walls.

I didn’t stay for much longer than that. The monologue in the theater was already over two hours long–sort of ridiculous. I had called a MyTaxi, assuming the show was over, so I hopped in a cab and went home, glad that this show was a bit better than the last.

American Utopias runs through April 21. Get tickets here.

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