Mike Daisey’s one-man show examines human cost of technology 

Mike Daisey wants you to think about your iPhone.

Not just its awesome technology, or the way it has changed your life, or the company that developed it. He wants you to think about those things, too, but he mostly wants you to think about how your iPhone ended up here.

With “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” Daisey delves into our unquenchable desire for new technology — and our reluctance to examine its human cost.

Funny and thought-provoking, the one-man show — which opened Sunday at Berkeley Repertory Theatre — is the second in a double-header of Daisey monologues that also includes “The Last Cargo Cult.” Directed by Jean-Michele Gregory, both shows continue in repertory through Feb. 27.

Like “Last Cargo Cult,” “Steve Jobs” alternates between two stories.

One is a hilarious history of the Apple company, as told by Daisey, a self-described computer geek and “Apple fan-boy” in love with innovations such as “a laptop so thin you could slice a sandwich with it.”

The other story concerns a trip Daisey took to China. Posing as a businessman — “a dorky, poorly prepared spy in a Hawaiian shirt” — he visited Foxconn, the company that makes 50 percent of the world’s electronics.

Located in Shenzhen, a former fishing village, it is a hellish place where 400,000 people — many of them children — work 32-hour shifts and sleep stacked to the ceiling in tiny concrete bunkers. This, he discovered, is where iPods are made — not by machines, but by his fellow humans, some of whom are so stressed they are committing suicide by jumping off the factory roof.

Daisey is a brilliant storyteller whose large, expressive voice can conjure up vivid scenes and multiple characters.

Sitting at a long table backed by LED-framed panels (set and lights by Seth Reiser), with just a glass of water and a few sheets of notes, he traces Apple’s early triumphs, muses on its visionary founder, Steve Jobs, and heaps scorn on its failures.  

He evokes the fear of facing down the factory’s armed guards, and shares the heartbreak of workers cast aside when they are too old or injured to keep up.

Daisey is not about to give up his iPhone, and he does not ask the audience to either. But he suggests that it is time to re-examine our obsession with technology.

A provocative show such as “Steve Jobs” makes you wonder if that could be possible.

Theater Review

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs


Where:
Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley

When: Various times Tuesdays-Sundays; closes Feb. 27

Tickets: $14.50 to $73

Contact: (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org

About The Author

Georgia Rowe

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