Moon #2: “The Fool Who Walks Through Walls”
- “There’s something beautiful about it, if you’ve ever gone to an open mic and seen someone dash themselves against the wall of night.”
The second installment of Mike Daisey’s All the Faces of the Moon further explores the theme of change. But it’s not just urban change, like the closing of a fondly remembered lounge and amateur performance venue called “Happy Ending” that Daisey is thinking about here; it’s the way people change within the landscape of the city.
An encounter with an old playwright buddy named Sheila leads Daisey down a couple of familiar rabbit holes, including a treatise the shoddy state of theater development programs at “big box” theaters in New York, which climaxes with a hilarious analysis of why playwrights move to LA. But through Sheila, Daisey confronts the larger issue of those who leave New York — those who give up or “sell out.” It’s an important sequence for Daisy on a couple of levels. Daisey spends a lot of time mythologizing New York as the uber-city, as the greatest multi-faceted network of character and style in the world, and as the only place worth being. The difference between everywhere else in America and New York, he points out, is that “they have laundromats in their houses and we have awesomeness everywhere.” But with Sheila, he aknowladges that the city, for all its greatness, is in fact an old mean thing that wants to expel us or destroy us. All that can be done is get on stage, like Daisey and his colleagues do at these open mic nights at Happy Ending, and make a stand against the city. During a cryptic conversation, Daisy catches a glimpse of a snake tattoo under Shelia’s dress that seems to wink at him.
At that moment, Daisey’s story untethers from his own experience and finds a transgendered person named Jack in an apartment nearby. We stay with Jack for the rest of the evening, as she makes her way through New York by chance, hopping into cabs without paying or telling the cabbies which way she’d like to go. This changeover between Daisey talking about Daisey and Daisey talking about Jack comes with sudden boldness, and I found the transition to be completely thrilling. Surely I have heard Daisey talk about other characters at length in other pieces, but something here felt wholly new. Usually the ancillary characters in a Mike Daisey piece always feel like props to the point he is trying to make, or at least secondary to what is going on with the man himself. But Jack has her own motivations, her own life. Like everyone else in the city, Jack has changed, and tonight she’s going to confront the man who changed her — someone referred to as “the big guy,” who seems to have been hosting the same party for 15 or so years. Daisey evokes this bizarre figure with marvelous density: in repose atop a waterbed, adorned with a Budweiser can crown and a hot-glued pinecone scepter. “I can’t speak for the production values,” Daisey says, “I’m just telling you what’s on the waterbed. Don’t judge him. It’s been a difficult time for all of us.”
Jack and the big guy’s interaction ends the evening with another cliffhanger of mortal consequence. Since the first episode’s ending went unaddressed, I can only assume that each ending will include a kind of punch to the gut like this.
A highly effective dash, as it were, smack into Daisey’s own ever-growing wall of night.