REVIEW: The Last Cargo Cult (Victory Gardens)

Witty, expressive storyteller goes tribal

 

 
Victory Gardens Freshly Squeezed Series presents
 
The Last Cargo Cult
 
Written and performed by Mike Daisey
Directed by
Jean Michele Gregory
at the
Richard Christiansen Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
thru May 9th  | tickets: $25  |  more info

By Katy Walsh

Sleeping with a pig, shopping at Ikea, fermented yam paste, $40 public beaches, its primitive tales from the South Pacific spliced up with pure Americana. Victory Gardens Freshly Squeezed Series presents

The Last Cargo Cult runs for a limited engagement at the Richard Christiansen Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln. Master storyteller Mike Daisey uses his personal memoirs to illustrate America’s money paradox. According to Wikipedia, the goddess of all information, “a cargo cult is a type of religious practice that may appear in traditional  tribal societies in the wake of interaction with technologically advanced cultures.” During World War II, the U.S. military set up strategic bases on several South cargocult3Pacific islands. At the conclusion of the war, the G.I. Joes go but the awakening to technology and commerce remains. (Think of Bali Ha’i islanders singing, "I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair.”) Daisey relates his recent journey to an exotic South Pacific Island that worships America. He intertwines everyday experiences of a first world inhabitant. The Last Cargo Cult is a one-man comedic deconstruction of the U.S. economic foundation that crumbled.

Daisey is a witty and expressive storyteller. As the writer, his word choices create vivid illustrations. He describes the islanders as “if the French and English had sex and the baby was raised by sailors in the 1940’s.” Now, that’s a descriptor. He cloaks poignant points within hilarious absurdity. Upon arrival each audience member receives a bill of currency, ranging from $1 to $100. Daisey uses the random distribution to relate self-validation connected to money. With arms flailing, eyes bulging and red faced, Daisey is outstanding in nailing the ludicrous lives of Americans and their plethora of ‘awesome shit.’ He transitions to the unexpected response in the story with a well-placed uttering of the word ‘awkward.’ Daisey’s disenchantment with the American cargocult financial industry and the unfortunate infiltration of American culture on what use to be an exotic island is pure schadenfreude. He finds the comedy in the farce and delivers it with dark, delicious satisfaction.

The running time is two hours and ten minutes. Awkward… It’s too long! It’s like if Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had a love child and that love child was paid by the word commentating on the travel channel. Even the strongest storyteller benefits from editing. If the length is part of the money paradox theme, I got my money’s worth easily at the half-way point. Seat F 109 didn’t even make it that far before she started dozing off and she received $50 to my $1 in the commerce audience activity. Every time Daisey turned over a legal sheet of notes, I silently prayed, “be the bottom of the pile.” Although I have a healthy attention span, I have American impatience limitations. I refused to go on a second date with a monologuer. And after the hour and a half, he at least bought my dinner. Mike, tack on another forty minutes of my undivided attention and I’m going to expect more than dinner out of our encounter.

 
 
Rating: ★★½
 
 

cargocult

Running Time: Two hours and ten minutes

WAITING FOR THE SHOW

Before heading for tropic tales of the South Pacific, toasting Cinco de Mayo is the order of the day. I meet up with Jen on the patio at El Tapatio Café,‎ 3400 North Ashland. Alfresco Chicago is the best parts of Spring and Summer. The margaritas are generous and rimmed with salt. During our short stint, we are serenaded by a Mariachi band. Nine men dressed identical from their grey boots to the white fringe on their blue silk scarves. For a moment, I’m transported to simpler times on a Mexican vacation with sun baked stucco, clove cigarettes and shots of tequila. Impatient Chicagoans honk me back to reality. I’m glad that America isn’t completely a melting pot and bursts of other cultures thrive around the holidays. I finish my drink and bike on to Victory.

   
   

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