Examining the Echoes of Doctor Neutron (Theater)

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Either Mike Daisey has impeccable timing — make that positively uncanny timing — or the gods of theater view this writer and performer with unusual benevolence.

In his absorbing if uneven new monologue, “If You See Something Say Something,” which opened on Monday night at Joe’s Pub, Mr. Daisey recounts the creation of the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, N.M., in 1945. At the performance I caught, a low rumbling shook the floor just as Mr. Daisey described the white-knuckle moment of detonation.

An elaborate sound effect? No, merely the subway hurtling through a tunnel under Astor Place. I have heard the sound many times before during performances at the Public Theater, but on this occasion the timing was so precise that it added an eerie frisson of verisimilitude to the moment. A snaky chill crawled slowly up my spine and lingered for awhile.

Mr. Daisey’s ambitious new show traces the philosophical roots of our metastasizing contemporary security apparatus back to the early days of the cold war, when the newly energized war machine was kept in a state of tense alert, the better to rout the Commies should they suddenly spring into action and swamp American shores.

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