Review: "What the Fuck Just Happened?" is a Great Show About a Not-So-Great Year

What the Fuck Just Happened?

Created and performed by Mike Daisey

Presented by FRIGID New York at the Kraine Theater 

85 E 4th St., Manhattan, NYC and via YouTube Live

April 2, 2021; encore performance: May 7, 2021

Mike Daisey. Photo Credit Ursa Waz
While it may be spring in the city, the East Village was feeling FRIGID this weekend. On April 2, indie theater stalwarts FRIGID New York opened the doors of the Kraine Theater on East 4th Street to a live audience for monologuist Mike Daisey's one-man reflection on the past year, What the Fuck Just Happened? Following the Kraine's health and safety protocols for reopening, in-person audience members were required to be fully vaccinated, to wear masks while inside the theater, and to adhere to pod seating. The Kraine has also installed a new ventilation system designed specifically to mitigate COVID exposure, and the mask-less Daisey performed at a minimum distance of ten feet from the audience. Having not yet ascended to the ranks of The Fully Vaccinated, we watched the livestream, but even as part of the ghostly online audience that Daisey refers to in this fantastic performance, we can say that What the Fuck Just Happened? was an excellent way to welcome in-person theater back to the Kraine.
Photo credit: high Stakes NYC
Daisey, seated at a neat, dark table in a dark shirt, begins by talking about a 2019 bedbug infestation, the sort of relatable (to city dwellers) problem that 2020 would make almost comfortingly mundane by comparison. From this starting point, Daisey's engrossing show touches topics from the cognitive dissonance, behaviors, and varying experiences of suffering early in the pandemic to its effect on his romantic life to the depressing aspects of meal planning. He recounts his experiences delivering food and phone banking to get Joe Biden elected; considers the politics of pandemic pot beating, the shift away from a sense of unity created by the COVID crisis, and that summer's Black Lives Matter protests; and contemplates the country's simultaneous (and ongoing) dalliance with fascism and the danger that our return to "normal" with leave us with a missed opportunity for real and necessary change. Daisey also comments on the event of the show itself as a way to comment, with some well-observed, keen-edged jabs, on the state of the American theater, the experience of theater as a conversation, and the differing experiences of the live and online audiences (it's hard to think that the livestream won't stick around in some form as an add-on to live shows after this past year).

What the Fuck Just Happened? showcases Daisey as a master of the form: it's incisive, frequently hilarious, and packed with vivid detail in its storytelling. And even though livestream viewers couldn't see the in-person audience members during the performance, their laughter really made an almost surprising difference in the experience. If you are a New Yorker and have friends or relatives from out of town who want to know or whom you want to know what it has been like to live in the city over the last year, get them tickets to the next livestream on May 7th—because it's still too soon to fly in for a show.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

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