EDGE Boston :: Entertainment :: Theatre:
"I believe that the subway is democracy," Daisey says at one point - or said at the performance I attended, which is no guarantee that he’ll repeat the phrase at subsequent iterations. By this, he means that people of all classes and occupations find themselves crammed into the same limited space, and they all have the same visceral urge to fight for breathing room: Daisey references an inner voice urging him to strike back at the press of bodies, saying, "Shiv someone!" But the democracy of the subway also means that "everyone holds back, and that’s civilization, the promise that everyone makes and expects: to refrain, to hold themselves within themselves." If Daisey’s monologue can be said to have a single uniting theme, it’s that of civilization - and the way in which it was betrayed by terrorists, who not only broke that promise, but see it as their place to live and act outside of it. The regrettable parallel Daisey discovers as he post-mortems the shock and trauma of 9/11 and its wake is that our own American leadership has also begun to see itself as existing above, and independent of, civil niceties like law and social compacts.
All of this is linked to the monologue’s secondary theme, that of family. Daisey begins his monologue with the story of his own wedding to wife Jean-Michele Gregory (who also directs Daisey’s performances), and ends it with an account of his sister’s nuptials. In between, he talks about the dissolution of his parents’ marriage, analyzes the bewildering phenomenon of meeting his father’s new girlfriend ("I flew right out of my body" the moment he saw her touching his father in an intimate manner), and explores the ways in which rational people can suddenly "break" emotionally - and physically; whether it’s a mind snapping in two with berserker rage or primal fear, or four thousand New Yorkers being pulverized into airborne motes that settle into the soup at a local restaurant, that theme of human destruction looms large in the work, and with it Daisey ties a close correlation between the American family and America itself.