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The Last Cargo Cult

a Monologue
by Mike Daisey

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Hertz Stage [WEBSITE]
ID# 3705

SHOWING : March 19, 2010 - April 11, 2010



Groundbreaking monologist Mike Daisey comes to Atlanta with the story of his journey to a remote South Pacific island whose people worship America and its cargo. This narrative is woven against a searing examination of the international financial crisis that gripped the globe at the same moment. Confronting the financial system that dominates our world, Daisey wrestles with the largest questions of what the collapse means, and what it can tell us about our deepest values. Part adventure story and part memoir, he explores each culture to unearth a human truth between the seemingly primitive and achingly modern.

Cast Carson Cerney
Cast Michika McClinton
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Awesome S$%t!
by Dedalus
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Monologist Mike Daisey is a big man with a big booming voice and big florid gestures. For two hours, he sits at a big table and tells us big stories filled with big ideas and, to be honest, not a few big laughs. Welcome to the world of “The Last Cargo Cult!” I guarantee that, if you are of a certain mindset, you will walk out of the theatre richer than when you walked in.

Using the 2008 financial meltdown as a starting point, Mr. Daisey takes us through a looking-glass world of financial derivatives, stuff-worshipping islanders, the entanglements between money and soul, and the truly “awesome s$%t” that make up the not-so-obscure objects of our desires. Asking us to truly examine what money, what cash is and what it means to us and how it affects our decisions is the endgame of the monologue. Showing an island population, isolated from the world through most of its history, is his weapon of choice.

Tanna is a small island in what were once called the New Hebrides in the South Pacific. The islanders were exposed to American “stuff” during World War II and ended up worshipping stuff, while at the same time, remaining a “money”-free society. It was their society that was transformed into a cargo-worshipping cult after the war, and they celebrate, once a year, a “John Frum Day,” John Frum being the almost legendary islander (or American serviceman) who started the whole thing off. This is a day in which the islanders re-tell via song and dance and ritual their version of the history of America.

Mr. Daisey made a pilgrimage to witness the celebration, and found its confluence of money-less stuff-worship juxtaposing nicely with the recent melt-down in global finance, based largely on our penchant for buying the most stuff for the least amount of cash, and, indeed, our own veneration of the latest “awesome s$%t.” Taking three months to immerse himself in the basics of macro-economics and “origin of the specie” financial history, he put together a monologue that tries, at heart, to make sense of the whole system.

Combining exciting anecdotes, hysterically wry observations about life in America and on Tanna, and angry and obscene rants about the unfairness of it all, he grabs us from the start and keeps us watching for two uninterrupted hours. He is not an actor, but a story-teller, so he is not creating a character so much as presenting an argument. And yet, he still comes across as a larger-than-life character in his own right, a force of nature we can’t help but notice. Make no mistake, attention has been paid, both to him and to his stories.

A neat gimmick to underscore the “what does money really mean” theme, is that every audience member is handed a real, spendable, bill on the way into the theatre (denominations include everything up to $100, which adds a little “why-did-I-only-get-a-one-when-she-got-a-fifty?” spice to the pre-show activities). What becomes of that cash will depend on what makes you you, how money influences your choices and personality, especially after we are told what it truly represents.

So, is this a good play or monologue or rant or whatever you want to call it? I don’t really think there’s enough “stuff” here to justify the two-hour running time, but it is a close call. I found my attention flagging a bit at the midway point, but I was quickly re-engaged for the ending, especially considering Mr. Daisey’s boisterousness and energy. It left me wanting to see (or read) his other work, and that’s a fair recommendation. In fact, he’ll be giving a special one-night only presentation of his “How Theatre Failed America” on April 5 (which I must sadly miss due to a conflicting rehearsal), and I recommend you catch up with that, as well as with this piece.

So, what does money mean to me? Being a typical American (Dedalus-Debts > Dedalus-Assets), acquiring “awesome s$%t” definitely takes precedence over the ability to pay for it for me. There is ALWAYS a reason to borrow (even hitting up my fellow-ushers for parking garage money) and NEVER a reason to save.

After seeing “The Last Cargo Cult,” I have reason to question (if not abandon) that particular life-style. And that’s some “awesome s$%t” indeed!

-- Brad Rudy (

For more info on the "Cargo-Cult" phenomenon, check out Brian Dunning's Skeptoid Podcast of 3/30/10 -- [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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