Review: Geva's 'The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs' is thought-provoking

05:00 AM, Jan 27, 2013

Remi Sandri in the one-man play, 'The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,' at Geva Nextstage. (CHRIS HOLDEN/Photo provided by Geva)/

Written By Marcia Morphy

There’s a new virus spreading and it’s by word of mouth — a monologue written by Mike Daisey called The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.

It’s part memoir, part exposé of the highly temperamental capitalist genius who violated every rule of management while increasing America’s lust for those “three-eyed” gadgets we can’t seem to live without — the iPod, iPad and iPhone.

The production at Geva’s Nextstage is version 2.0 of this play. Daisey’s original script sparked heated debate when public radio’s This American Life discovered fabrications in his story.

Artistic director Mark Cuddy adds further revisions: He complements actor Remi Sandri’s 90-minute monologue with video (photos of young Jobs and Chinese factory workers); sound (including Beatles music to accentuate the 1960s trappings of Jobs brand); and a bright red magic carpet (complete with Apple logo in the corner) to transport us from the land of Silicon Valley to China and back.

Overall, Daisey’s script is a winning trifecta — part renegade journalism, part theatrical license, and part John Lennon’s world of “Imagine.”

Steve Jobs is Exhibit A, and after we first meet “the two Steves” — go-getter Jobs and his wiz programmer partner Steve Woziak — we learn about Jobs’ strangeness, his abrasive personality and how he divided the world into geniuses and “bozos.”

The play also gives the timeline of his meteoric rise — from leaving Apple and founding NeXT, a computer platform development company, to his return to save Apple from bankruptcy in 1996.

But Exhibit B is equally compelling as the show focuses on the dire conditions of Apple’s China manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China, and claims that Jobs’ company outsourced jobs to Foxconn without regard to the conditions of workers.

Daisey’s monologue is a tour-de-force role for Sandri, a seasonal change from his appearance as the Ghost of Jacob Marley in Geva’s A Christmas Carol. Wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sandals, he is a relaxed, yet superb storyteller — charismatic, humorous, easy to listen to, and masterfully focused, especially when an audience member’s cellphone rudely interrupted his dialogue.

The story he tells is sad — how Daisey visited electronic manufacturing plants in China, interviewed workers laboring 12 to 16 hours a day under harsh conditions, and the ensuing rash of suicides. We shudder in his retelling of how 25-year-old Foxconn employee Sun Danyong jumped to his death from the factory roof after being accused of losing a prototype iPhone.

Technology has a price, but geekdom will survive, despite the disturbing realities of global capitalism that this play claims. In an encore Q&A with the audience, Sandri brought the point home. “We all love our toys.”

Guilty as charged, I took a furtive glance into my purse at the iPhone that wouldn’t exist without consumers like me who rely on its technologies and can’t wait for the next Apple product to come out. I didn’t turn it back on for a long time.