It would be completely unfair to write a review of Mike Daisey's newest monologue The Last Cargo Cult. Saturday's performance of the monologue was only the third time anyone had ever seen it performed.
Mike Daisey doesn't rehearse his material, he doesn't write a script, and he will only perform in front of an audience. Daisey's monologues are living, breathing entities which morph, reorganize and change considerably over their lifecycle.
"At this point, the monologue may change up to 40% from workshop to workshop," comments Jean-Michelle Gregory, Mike Daisey's director, editor and wife. She goes on to explain the painstaking process that they go through after each performance as Daisey's notes get annotated, patched up and reorganized.
I had the opportunity to sneak a peek at Daisey's notes for the show and they consisted of bullet-pointed words and phrases like "Uh oh" and "Getting back on the plane". These mile markers represent the core of the story and enable Daisey to follow tangents and connections that may spontaneously occur from night to night without worrying about how he'll get back on track. As an audience member, the experience of witnessing Daisey discovering a nugget of gold off a seemingly random tangent is indescribable.
The Last Cargo Cult may not be as polished as a work like Monopoly! , but it does have an amazing energy surrounding it, as if you can almost feel something actively growing and building. Seeing a work at this stage of the creative process is extremely rare; most artists shy away from showing anything that isn't completely done or perfected. This isn't to say that The Last Cargo Cult isn't already an extraordinarily enjoyable, insightful and hilarious monologue – it is. The imperfections act in many ways like a beauty mark on a stunning model and add to the experience of seeing it live and grow.
As I promised, this isn't a review of The Last Cargo Cult. I won't tell you why I was handed $20 by the usher as I entered the theater, what happens on the little island of Tana, what the John Frum Movement worships or what exactly fiat currency means. These are all part of the amazing journey of Mike Daisey's The Last Cargo Cult, a monologue which is set to have an extraordinary life including three weekends of workshops in Seattle, a premiere at Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, a run at the Playmakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, and a prime-time spot in December at the Public Theater.
I will tell you that Mike Daisey has become one of the preeminent monologists alive today. If Mike Daisey finds his way into a city you're in, you should jump on the opportunity to see him. The workshop performance of The Last Cargo Cult sold out in a couple of days and I expect the next time he comes to town it will be even faster.
Here's the tour current tour schedule for Mike Daisey's The Last Cargo Cult:
Aug. 1 at 8 PM at the Wieden+Kennedy Atrium in Portland, OR
Aug. 7-22 at 8 PM at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, WA
Sept. 4-13 at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in Philadelphia, PA
Sept. 16-20 at the Playmakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, NC
Sept. 24-25 at the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, AK
Sept. 29-30 at the The Whitehorse Centre in Whitehorse, YT Canada
Oct. 2-3 at The Banff Centre in Banff, AB, Canada
Oct. 9-11 at The Gamm Theatre in Providence, RI
Dec. 3-13 at the Public Theater in New York, NY
Jan. 11-Feb. 7, 2010 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, DC
March 4-8 at the WaterTower Theatre in Dallas, TX
March 19-April 11 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA
April 26-May 9 at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, IL
For more information on Mike Daisey and The Last Cargo Cult: