Hannah McCarthy

A reworked monologue exposes the “bad Apple” at Next Act

Actor Robby McGhee and director Alan Piotrowicz team up to present "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," Mike Daisey's monologue about Chinese factory workers.

By - May 30th, 2013 01:58 am
Robby McGhee stars in Mike Daisey's one man show.

Robby McGhee stars in Mike Daisey’s one man show.

Next Act Theatre may have officially ended its season earlier this spring, but this weekend it’ll open its doors for a controversial one-man show: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. The play, originally performed by playwright Mike Daisey and here by local actor Robby McGhee, examines the dance between consumers, creators and corporations through the lens of Apple Inc., accused by Daisey of allowing unimaginably unsafe working conditions for the Chinese laborers who produce its products.

The original stage play was written in 2010, but rose in prominence in 2012 when portions of the monologue aired as part of a segment on the NPR program This American Life. The information Daisey presented startled listeners, but they were further shocked after allegations that Daisey’s controversial accusations weren’t entirely true. After an investigation, Daisey admitted to having fabricated certain facts to create a more compelling story, and aired his retraction on NPR.

The production being done by McGhee, director Alan Piotrowicz and The World’s Stage Theater Company takes those fabrications into account. McGhee said Daisey has since removed the contested facts from the script, resulting in a “2.0” version that is every bit as thought-provoking – and more compelling. McGhee says The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is a humorous and engaging examination of how we as people interact with the products imagined by Jobs and created by Apple – less about vilifying one of the largest companies in the world and more about revealing how that company’s products affect the lives of both those who purchase them and those who produce them.

“I’ve always wanted to gain more experience in storytelling,” McGhee said. “After reading this monologue, I thought this would be a really great learning experience. I find myself out of my ‘comedy comfort zone,’ but there are moments for humor in this monologue. And I savor them.”Steve_Jobs_Headshot_2010-CROP

McGhee says he was first approached by Piotrowicz to perform the role a few months ago, and determined it was the sort of play Milwaukee needed to see. Because of the way it’s structured, the revised monologue can display the ethical issues faced by Apple, but also apologizes for its previous version’s fabrications for the sake of portraying those issues. “Sometimes the truth isn’t enough for people to change,” McGhee said.

If anything, McGhee says, the revision has strengthened the piece. The monologue always had its strengths – built on Daisey’s taste for humor and ceaseless wit over preaching – but this newer version allows Daisey to compare his mistakes to those of Steve Jobs and Apple Inc., offering a humble apology his corporate adversary is unable to make.

The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs will run at the Next Act Theater  from Friday, May 31, to Sunday, June 2.Tickets are $20, with a senior or student discount available for $15. Curtain for the Friday and Saturday performance is 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday performance begins at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 414-278-0765. 

Categories: Theater

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