The Last Cargo Cult

Mike Daisey takes on our dysfunctional relationship with money.

  • CULT FIGURE Daisey makes a subtle point; Photographs: Joan Marcus

CULT FIGURE Daisey makes a subtle point; Photographs: Joan Marcus

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

How badly does monologuist extraordinaire Mike Daisey want you to see The Last Cargo Cult? So much so that he’ll pay you out of his own pocket to attend this wry, exuberant and hilarious response to the global financial meltdown. Along with a program, audience members receive a dollar bill as they take their seats, and the rumbling begins as we realize some got more than others—the bills range in denomination from $1 to $100.

The stunt is a cunning way to illustrate our dysfunctional relationship with money, and it’s a testament to Daisey’s talent that many audience members deposited their cash in a donation bowl after the performance reviewed here. In his latest solo show, Daisey turns his keen eye to the tiny South Pacific island of Tanna, where natives, exposed during World War II to all the “awesome shit” America has to offer, still embrace our culture with religious zeal. Their reverence reaches its peak during an annual celebration that recounts U.S. history through words and movement. Bizarre, yes, but is it any crazier than our own blind worship of the financial system?

Collaborating once again with his wife, director Jean-Michele Gregory, Daisey remains equal parts philosopher, historian and social critic, improvising from an outline and never moving from his table and chair. As moments of serene pontification give way to shout-talking outbursts, he brands bankers “financial terrorists” and our fiscal system a “pyramid scheme,” and intersperses personal anecdotes of his island adventures. At times it may taste like a feast with too many side dishes, but Daisey’s storytelling finesse always guarantees a delectable spread.—Diane Snyder

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Public Theater. Created and performed by Mike Daisey. Directed by Jean-Michele Gregory. 2hrs. No intermission.