Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs (Encore Run)
Dramatic license is an accepted part of storytellingunless the teller states explicitly that he personally experienced everything in his story. Daisey ran into trouble not because his stories of desperate labor conditions in Chinese factories were untrue (other sources, notably The New York Times, later corroborated them) but because he had not seen all of them firsthand.
In Daisey's words, part of the genius of Jobs, who died in 2011, was the way he could make people "need something we never even knew we wanted." He presents a brief history of Apple and the yin-yang balance between Jobs, the "techno-libertarian hippie" with a ruthless devotion to the bottom line, and the more easygoing Steve Wozniak. (Daisey admits that he is an "Apple fanboy" who relaxes after a performance by breaking down his MacBook Pro into 43 component parts, cleaning them, then reassembling the computer.)
The tension arises between the desire for beautifully designed, elegant gadgets that can do almost anything and the people who manufacture those products. "How often do we say we wish things were handmade?" Daisey asks the audience. "Everything is handmadeif you have the eyes to see it." He traveled to China, where a contractor called Foxconn employs 430,000 in just one of its factories to manufacture iPods and iPhones for Apple.
People want their high-tech toys and don't want to believe that they were made under oppressive conditions by thousands of workers crammed into vast factories and crowded dormitories. Daisey does (understandably) reveal some defensiveness about the challenges to his integrity. "Why believe me? Maybe none of this is true," he says near the end of the almost two-hour-long performance. "You don't have to listen to me. You never had to." But the kicker is, as he acknowledges, "We don't want it to be real."
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company