Our story begins at the White Sands Missile Range, a secure military installation in New Mexico. It’s quite large; “you could fit three Rhode Islands in it,” Mike Daisey tells the capacity audience. He has carefully chosen the date of his visit: the first Saturday in October, the day on which each year, people make a “pilgrimage to Trinity”, the site of the first nuclear weapons test, which took place there in 1945. They wanted to make it a national monument, Daisey tells us incredulously. “HELL, no!” As a compromise, they let it be open to anyone for one day in the year, no questions asked. And Daisey makes the most of his visit, which he proceeds to describe in detail.
A large part of the presentation deals with Sam Cohen, inventor of the neutron bomb, a pugnacious octogenarian whose recollections and autobiography are quoted extensively, and his friend and partner, Herman Kahn. Daisey read Kahn’s 600-plus-page treatise, “On Thermonuclear War,” which extols the use of terror as a deterrent at the age of 10, making some of us less erudite audience members look uneasily around. But have no fear: while Daisey’s rapid-fire presentation is filled to overflowing with data and facts, some of which will lodge in your brain while others will threaten to turn it to mush, it is his earnestness, approachability, and ability to tell hard truths in an entertaining manner that will keep you fixed (and even transfixed) on his solid, solitary frame for better than two hours.
Daisy mixes erudition with bons mots, envisioning a think tank as a large aquarium with brains floating at the top, communicating with other – waah, waah, waah, waah – “and it’s really very much like that.” He’s tried to read the Patriot Act, but his eyes “just slide off the page.” But that’s nothing compared to the people who signed it into law without reading it, and begat the Department of Homeland Security, he confides. We get a Daisey’s-eye-view of the roster of DHS secretaries that does not, shall we say, inspire confidence: The first secretary, Tom Ridge, knew nothing about terrorism, but figured he could read up on it. The next nominee, Bernard Kerick, wasn’t appointed, but managed to be indicted on 16 counts. Then we had Michael Chertoff: “This f—– was BORN to be the head of DHS. He’s the author of the Patriot Act. Best of all, he looks like Skeletor.”
Mike Daisey is, if anything, the anti-Skeletor, visually and verbally, physically and philosophically. Whether your taste in theater runs to the historically accurate, the intellectually challenging, or the laugh-till-you-cry hilarious, run, don’t walk, to Woolly for this show. You’ll certainly see something – and you’ll be saying something long after.
- Running time: 120 minutes
- Tickets: If You See Something Say Something
- Remaining Shows: Tues, July 15 at 8 . Wed, July 16 at 8 . Thurs, July 17 at 8 . Fri, July 18 at 8 . Sat, July 19 at 8 . Sun, July 20 at 4
- Where: Woolly Mammoyh Theatre, 641 D Street NW