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Theater Review (NYC): If You See Something Say Something

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Mike Daisey’s idea of fun is to drive hours upon hours to Los Alamos and visit Trinity, the site of the first atomic bomb blast. It’s not something you can do every day. Normally the deadliest place on earth is closed because it is a) still contaminated and b) top secret. Except when it isn’t, and Mike Daisey has made it his business to know exactly when that is. That would be the first Saturday in October. You just missed it, sorry.

Daisey has also made it his business to try and read the 800-plus pages of the Patriot Act, which is why he knows that no one who voted for it has read it. It is, in a word, unreadable. What IS readable is Herman Kahn’s book On Thermonuclear War, which laid out the facts about a world in which more than one country had THE BOMB and knew how to use it. The bomb is just one of those things that, even with no one to fight, once you have it you are just itching to set it off.

Daisey is kind of obsessed with Security and how things got to be the way they are, and his obsession is contagious. He is a tour guide who makes you want to stay on the bus for another loop around almost any old subject. He is fascinated with our government, which, with power given, is looking for more power. From secret courts to FISA to the Department of Homeland Security, the government is stumbling like a fat man in a candy store. Once the Department of War morphed into the Department of Defense all bets were off. Eisenhower may have warned us of the Military Industrial Complex, but few paid attention.

If You See Something Say Something is startling theater in all the good ways. It could use a judicious trim here and there, where Daisey drifts away from his narrative to muse on details and statistics that lack substance. When he returns to his narrative, however, the pace picks up and systems are go. You don’t want to hear some of this, but you cannot turn away.

With If You See Something Say Something, Mike Daisey is putting us on notice. Even with Obama headed to the White House, this is not a time to let our guard down and assume things will be rosy. We don’t have to wait to see something. We only have to look.

You could start by directing your gaze at Mike Daisey. It’s worth it.


IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING

Created and performed by Mike Daisey; directed by Jean-Michele Gregory; lighting by K. J. Hardy; general manager, Nicki Genovese; associate artistic director, Mandy Hackett; associate producer, Jenny Gersten; director of production, Ruth E. Sternberg. Presented by the Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, artistic director; Andrew D. Hamingson, executive director. At Joe’s Pub, at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, at Astor Place, East Village, NYC; (212) 967-7555. Through Nov. 30. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes.

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