Reviews: BEYOND THE CUCKOO’S NEST and THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS (and the Repudiation and Redemption of Mike Daisey)

by Lynn on May 12, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

l-r: Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, David Patrick Flemming, Miranda Edwards. Photo by Daniel Alexander

The following reviews were broadcast Friday May 11, 2012 on CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, CIUT 89.5 FM. BEYOND THE CUCKOO’S NEST at Young People’s Theatre until May 17. THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS (And the Repudiation and Redemption of Mike Daisey) until Sunday May 13 at various locations.

1) Good Friday Morning. It’s time for a little theatre with Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer.

Hi Lynn.

What’s up for today theatre-wise?

Hi Rose. I have two really provocative plays. First BEYOND THE CUCKOO’S NEST by Edward Roy, is at Young People’s Theatre and is about mental illness in teens.

And THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY OF STEVE JOBS (and the repudiation and redemption of Mike Daisey). at various locations until Sunday. It’s the one person show that monologist Mike Daisey created about the dastardly working conditions in China of Foxcon, the company that makes all the Apple electronics and the accusation of the piece is that Steve Jobs the CEO of Apple, knew.

2) Let’s start with BEYOND THE CUCKOO’S NEST. Mental illness in teens—you’re right, mental illness is a provocative subject.

And Young People’s Theatre is never shy about producing plays that reflect what’s going on in the lives of young people.

I love this theatre to bits for having the guts to address issues that are affecting young people. This year they did plays about bullying, homophobia, overbearing parents, abandonment, and a musical (Seussical) about a loyal elephant who watched over an egg until the chick hatched.

With BEYOND THE CUCKOO’S NEST they deal with mental illness.

3) How does the story deal with it?

Three teens, Patricia, Jude and Trey meet regularly to talk about their problems with a therapist named Cathy. Patricia has issues of self-esteem; Jude is schizophrenic; and Trey suffers from anxiety and panic attacks.

Both Jude and Trey are sweet on Patricia. Jude is loquacious, argumentative, needy and pushes all Patricia’s buttons. She thinks that Jude is just annoying. She doesn’t see that he likes her. Trey has to do an oral presentation and is terrified because he has an anxiety attach before doing such things.

He refuses to tell the teacher of his difficulty and hates the teacher for being tough. Cathy the therapist urges Trey to talk to the teacher for consideration. Then Patricia offers to help Trey with his public speaking.

Over the course of preparing, both Patricia and Trey bond.

4) Does Cathy treat them with kid gloves because they are mentally fragile?

No and that’s one of the many beauties of Edward Roy’s play. Cathy doesn’t coddle them. She is considerate but firm. Through it all Cathy keeps the three in check and able to function. She insists they respect each other. She knows their tricks and at one point tells Trey to stop using his illness as an excuse of his not trying or being disappointed.

I love the way Edward Roy deals with the mental illness. Cathy doesn’t let them feel sorry for themselves.

She makes them face their issues and deal with them. Arguments are given and dealt with but not in a facile way. And Roy’s dialogue crackles with the lingo of teens, and since the play is for teens this is crucial. I also appreciated that the story does not end all neatly and with everybody happy.

The title, BEYOND THE CUCKOO’S NEST refers to a group of mentally challenged kids who go into schools to talk to young people about their mental illnesses.

Brave and true.

5) And the production?

Edward Roy also directs and it’s with a muscular arm. Rock music throbs in the first few scenes as Jude tries to get Patricia to come with him to see some ‘really sick’ graffiti.

Andy Moro has designed a multi-levelled set onto which the three teens bound, hop, jump and dance. He has also done the projections which are busy and beautifully conjure that world of the teen—bursting with movement, images, and things to distract.

There are terrific performances from Miranda Edwards as Patricia—very confident, hopeful and yet anxious to do well in this new school and not repeat the problems at her other school. As Jude, David Patrick Flemming is a ball of fire and energy, attitude, in your face annoying and perfectly so. As Trey, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett is beautifully awkward, insecure, brow-beaten by his father. And as Cathy the therapist, Soo Garay is firm, thoughtful, considerate and fair.

Beautiful performances and a really compelling production.

6) And now THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY OF STEVE JOBS (and the Repudiation and Redemption of Mike Daisey). There’s been a lot of controversy about the show in general. Briefly tell us what the show is about.

THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY OF STEVE JOBS is a one man show originally written and performed by a wonderful, prickly monologist named Mike Daisey. In it he tells how he loves any kind of electronic device produced by Apple. He reads about them. He goes to their website to watch demos. Totally devoted.

But then doubt comes in. There are stories about horrible working conditions in China where every one of these devices is made. He decides to go to China to find out the truth.

He has an interpreter. He stands outside the Foxcon Factory in Shenzhen, China—a huge complex that makes these devices. He interviews workers, some as young as 12. He hears about the suicides of the workers because of long hours and grinding repetitive work.

He talks about the workers whose hands are gnarled crippled because of the chemicals used to clean the screens of he iphones etc. He is furious because he says that Steve Jobs knew about these horrible conditions. He had to. He wasn’t a micro-manager. He was a nano-manager.

So from all that comes this show—THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY OF STEVE JOBS. Daisey is interviewed on NPR….lots of notoriety. But then it was revealed that Daisey lied.

7) What did he lie about?

He didn’t actually talk to any workers. He couldn’t confirm that a person he talked to was 12. He didn’t talk to anyone whose hands were crippled because of the work. So then he was vilified in the press and on the NPR program.

Lots of controversy—if he lied then his show is a lie. Daisey issues an apology saying it’s theatre not journalism. He allows other theatre artists to download his script for free.

Enter director/producer Mitchell Cushman and actor David Ferry who take advantage of the offer and produce their own provocative production of it. Only they add a bit that addresses the controversy and they call it …and the Repudiation and Redemption of Mike Daisey.

8) Why is the production provocative?

The run is very short—until Sunday—and each show is in a secret location you learn about by getting a message on your iphone on the day. The first show was in a hackers’s work space.

I saw it yesterday in a garage in the Dovercourt/Queen area—brilliant since Apple started in a garage. We were told to keep our cell phones, pump up the volume, tweet, answer calls etc.

Mitchell Cushman directs this and keeps a tally of the calls and texts. Our total was 32.

David Ferry is not Mike Daisey but he is doing his script. Ferry is vivid, vibrant, raging, engaging and sucks us into that compelling story.

The repudiation and redemption part is Ferry reading many quotes from the press etc. vilifying Daisey for what he did and Daisey apologizing and trying to explain.

I love being unsettled by this show and its implication.

When Mitchell Cushman and David Ferry were on our show a few weeks ago Ferry said that all theatre is a lie. And he said that we know that everything Daisey said is true. Because of the show and the bad press on their Foxcon factory, Apple has improved the working conditions.

People now don’t work 16 hours a day any more. The pay is better. Ultimately, the show does what it’s supposed to—it illuminates a reality and leaves it to us to decide if it’s right or not.

I loved the whole theatricality of this production. Beautifully done.

Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can check out Lynn’s blog at

BEYOND THE CUCKOO’S NEST plays at Young People’s Theatre until June 17.

THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS (and the Repudiation and Redemption of Mike Daisey) at various locations until Sunday May 13.

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