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21 Dog Years: Doing Time @Amazon.Com
Daisey followed the call of one of the cyber world's best known Pied Pipers, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com. The call came by way of a temp company recruiter following up on a request from Amazon to "Send Us Your Freaks." Daisey, who had majored in Aesthetics, minored in Medieval history and worked almost as many jobs as Amazon has merchandise categories, struck the recruiter as more than sufficiently freaky. And so, prompted by a tooth problem that made health insurance available only through a "Real Job" a sudden imperative, Daisey headed for the Seattle cyber Oz known as Amazon.com. After a stretch in the dark regions (literally so!) of customer service which he compares to Dickens' Bleak House, he was catapulted into the executive hierarchy where neither he or anyone else seemed to have a clue about what they were doing -- except that they spent some eighty hours a week doing it.
Smiling infectiously and talking a mile a minute, Daisey replays his 3-year stint (7 years of a dog's life = 1 year in a human life) with the little online bookstore that grew and grew and grew, and persuaded its workers to trade having a life for buying into the big bucks fantasy. When, during his initial training session, Daisey interrupts a trainer's gobbledygook with "What exactly is our job?" the answer is "Exactly." At Amazon, asking questions is your job." Having learned nothing, the trainees form a circle, join hands and chant "Jeff took us from nothing, and made us a world power. Jeff is Amazon, and we are part of the body of Jeff."
And so it goes. The converted, our hero among them, enter the weird and opportunity rich Kingdom of Amazon.com ruled by the great God Jeff. The satiric twist on The Creation à la Amazon is one of the show's funniest bits and his take on the Pets.com debacle is sharply observed.
What makes the basically extended stand-up act work is that Daisey filters his view of Bezos and his company through his own see-sawing between intoxication with the Amazon dream and a more sober-eyed, ironic assessment of the Dickensenian gloom behind the smoke and mirrors. Not to be overlooked is the audience, many undoubtedly eager to laugh at what for many has proved to be a not very funny face-off with the burst bubble of the internet economy.
Daisey's 3-year trajectory at Amazon.com is interspersed with a one-way e-mail correspondence. It is through these laptop-typed communiqués to Bezos that Mike confides that he's on his way out of the dungeon-like customer service department into Business Development and "closer to Corporate" and the distant Wizard Jeff. Being in management turns out to be no less surreal, with most of the long work days spent refining computer game skills.
Jean-Michele Gregory (Mrs. Mike Daisey) has staged the show at a high voltage pace. I assume wifely concern about her husband's tendency to sweat profusely also accounts for the rather chilly theater (be sure to bring a jacket or some sort of wrap). Russell H. Champa's snappy lighting and Louisa Thompson's utilitarian set design help to create a measure of theatricality.
Obviously, since he's standing before us on the stage of the Cherry Lane Theatre and given the double entendre title, Daisey got away after his dog years tour of duty. He was also one of the lucky early employees who were able to walk away with a bundle of money -- but at the cost of having missed what was going on in the world outside Amazon.com's headquarters.
This tell-all show is his insurance that no one will ever tempt him with a long-hours-big-dreams corporate job again. And yet, determined as he may be never again to keep his nose quite so close to the grindstone, Daisey doing heavy duty making a big, laugh-filled deal out of rather slight on drama material. He has also learned a thing or two about promoting himself and his endeavors on the Internet. If you don't believe me, just check out www.mikedaisey.com.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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