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A CurtainUp Review
All the Faces of the Moon
By Elyse Sommer
For all that Daisey's monologues with their impassioned but often very funny ranting, have become must-see events for his loyal fans, he still takes to the stage in his uniform, of black pants and shirt — with his only props a mike, a sheet with notes, a glass of water and a much used black hankie to wipe sweat from his face. He does now sport a beard for a touch of sartorial splendor. And, of course, he continues to compensate for his lack of show biz chic with his energetic and basically extemporaneous story telling.
Speaking of energy, the venting has recently expanded from an hour or so to a marathon event. A 24-hour monologue he presented in Portland has now seeded All the Faces of the Moon, an even more ambitious work geared around the lunar cycle. That means 29 nights of monologues. Each is different yet all are connected by being focused through characters, topics and fictional finales to tie them together as a new sort of autobiographical novel.
Though Daisey's last monologue at the Public Theater, The Agony and the Ecstacy of Steve Jobs caused a big brouhaha about the factual authenticity. Though it was a big hit, it was an embarrassment for Daisey. However, the Public loves presenting experiences special enough for audiences to buy into the time required to be part of them (Remember Gatz? ) as much as Daisey loves sounding off on anything and everything. And so they've welcomed Daisey back to do his nightly version of Scheherazade's nightly story telling at Joe's Pub.
While Daisey's marathon stint isn't a case of keep telling your tales or die, there is the challenge of being entertaining and persuasive enough to get people to come to all 29 shows, but take in at least a few. I doubt that even the most diehard fans will buy into a whole month of Daisey's tales and the Pub's menu (huge hamburgers and fried clams seem to be most popular).
, Since September is an extraordinarily busy month for keeping up with new shows, I was only able to attend one of the few offered press performances. Even if I were free every evening, I doubt I could have signed on for more than two at most. As it turns out, much as I admire the man's showmanship and am dazzled by his "chutzpah" in undertaking this epic presentation, once, plus listening to parts of Moon's the available podcasts, was more than enough.
You see, this doesn't just look like a typical Daisey show, but it doesn't really add up to the cohesive whole it promises to deliver. The one new thing is a large painting by Larissa Tokmakova hung in back of Mr. D. and especially created for each "chapter." The one connective link is that, unlike his previous exploration of global issues, everything now focuses Daisey's reaction to his life in New York. So if you go along with the conceit of each evening as the chapter of a book, you could call this a memoir. (Leave it to Mr. D. to pick a popular genre!)
Obviously, my single live performance and limited podcast listening make it impossible to give you more than a general idea of what to expect. What I can tell you is that while Daisey is his usual attention holding and laugh getting self, it strikes me that the hour or so of each monologue is too rambling, and only intermittently hilarious, which is likely to be the case for the sum of these parts.
The format for each seems to see Daisey meander around the city grumbling about its changing face. The familiar venting culminates in a sliver thin fictional narrative. The first episode featured a rather dark self-exploration of Daisey's own agony being outed about his facts on the Steve Jobs piece. But in "The Empress Holds Her Cards Close" the piece I saw live on October 10th, he was back to kvetching and kvelling about Apple and Jobs since that happened to also be the day Apple had one of its new product events. One of the first five episodes included a major putdown of our Mike Bloomberg, but he may not be finished with "the small man"(his name for the soon-to-be ex-mayor) and be scribbling some notes to damn him for one of his final Manhattan landscape changers, those Citibikes.
The program note from the Public's artistic director Oskar Eustis makes Daisey sound like a purveyor of high art. Can high art and a dinner theater setting really co-exist? On the other hand I might have felt more uplifted listening to Daisey while chomping away on one of those big fat hamburgers.
To sample what's past and coming check out the Public Theater web site or Daisey's own website which includes summaries of topics covered in each episode and reproductions of the paintings: http://mikedaisey.blogspot.com/ A list of all the titles is included at the end of the production notes below. n the island of Manhattan.