Put the muckraking heavy machinery of Michael Moore together with the free-floating storytelling charm of Spalding Gray, and you get pretty close to Mike Daisey's "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs."

At what fate has just turned into impolite timing, the activist-monologuist landed at the Public Theater with two entertaining and horrifying hours about the suddenly late Jobs, the beloved Apple devices that changed the world and the top-secret human abuses involved in making them.

Make no mistake. Daisey is aiming for nothing less than a movement here, and, if you believe he saw what he says he saw in Shenzhen, China, anything less would feel immoral. We are even given what-can-we-do handouts on the way out.

But first, Daisey establishes both his gifts as a theater artist and his tech-cred as what he calls an "Apple fanboy."

"My only hobby is technology," he says, describing his "lust and geekery" in explosive incantations and sly asides, waving his wiggly fingers to emphasize his passion for each font and new invention "we never knew we wanted."

Daisey sits at a long table, much as the late Gray used to do, with just a few pages of outline and delicate lines of LED lights that, we're told, were also outsourced in Shenzhen. A big fellow, Daisey clearly knows the impact his presence had when he arrived at the guarded doors of a South China factory that has 430,000 workers as young as 12, appalling unregulated working conditions, concrete dormitories, young workers with gnarled hands and a suicide epidemic.

"I am large. I'm white. I'm wearing a Hawaiian shirt," he recalls with squinty pleasure. When he gets upset, which is often, his face reddens into something that resembles a pomegranate with eyebrows.

He stands out, but not in a threatening way, which may have helped him get access to secret operating systems that, inexplicably, American journalists did not expose long ago.

He calls his iPhone "my baby," and admits, "I've dedicated an embarrassing amount of my life on how these things work. But I never thought for a minute about how they are made."

He calls Jobs "the only hero I ever had." If what he says is true, the new myths will be darker ones.

For more on the subject, there is a panel at the Public at 7 p.m. Sunday with Daisey, NPR science correspondent Robert Krulwich and Daily Beast tech editor Dan Lyons. Tickets are $25; reservations required.

WHAT "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs"

WHERE Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St.

INFO $75-$85; 212-967-7555; publictheater.org

BOTTOM LINE Amusing monologue, disturbing investigation of Jobs

Top Stories


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months