|Jesse MacLean in Shakespeare by the Sea's The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs|
A one-man (or one-woman) show has its unique challenges – depicting conflict using often one character, keeping the audience engaged with only one actor, and keeping the one actor from exhausting himself. Halifax's Shakespeare by the Sea’s (SBTS) production of Mike Daisey’s controversial The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs does a superb job of alluding all these common pitfalls – through innovative use of technology, copious F-bombs (some contextually necessary, most not) and dynamic acting by Jesse MacLean. From the moment I took my seat in the dim 20 member audience, I was listening intently, cackling intensely and sending knowing looks to my theatre companion.
For those who have seen the production, you know that the title is somewhat misleading. While Steve Jobs is the context, Apple’s industrial practices are the story. And ultimately this play is a story. Unlike the original, SBTS’s version is portrayed as a fictionalize narrative, not a documentary. This takes the pressure off what ultimately doesn’t matter (the ambiguous logistics of Daisey’s trip to China) and places it on what does (the unfair trade practices of Foxconn). SBTS ended the show by justifying their narrative interpretation of The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, claiming that if we (the audience) leave the theatre challenged and motivated, they’ve done their job as story-tellers. At the time I thought they’d taken the lazy route, but after researching the history of the Daisey script, I respect their choice.