By Ron Fassler
Martin Moran’s The Tricky Part, is his one-man play that first hit the New York stage in 2004. Since then, in both the writing and performing, Mr. Moran has played it the world over; always to the same excellent reviews, and always to a moving and positive audience response. For the first time in many years, he is bringing the show back to the city where it all began, with a limited engagement at the Barrow Group Mainstage Theatre on West 36th Street. It is a must-see event.
Although the title doesn’t refer to it, getting one-person plays right could be described as “the tricky part.” Too often, I have sat in the audience at such shows wishing that a particular playwright/actor would have been less indulgent, or have written the play a bit more, as opposed to just perform stories from their life. What Moran has achieved with his play, is that it is indeed a play, and not a monologue or something that could as easily be read, and not necessarily performed. Smartly directed by Seth Barrish (the longtime Co-Artistic Director of the Barrow Group), what they bring to the piece with humility and humanity is undeniable
Many may know Martin Moran from his more than thirty years of performing on the New York stage, most prominently in the Broadway productions of Big River, Spamalot, Cabaret, Titanic, Bells Are Ringing, How To Succeed in Business… and Wicked, which he was appearing in as late as a few weeks ago. First beginning The Tricky Part as a written memoir, he discovered (through his collaboration with Barrish), that it was indeed a play, and that if he could manage as an actor to get through it in front of audiences, it might prove eminently stage worthy. That difficulty is due to the major issue in the play (in Moran’s life), his having suffered the trauma of the uninvited sexual abuse of a trusted friend, which began when Moran was a twelve-year-old.
In a talkback after the performance I attended Friday night, Moran mentioned an epiphany he had early on in the process, when he realized that the questions the play brings up (and there are many) are not just “Marty questions,” but human questions. And how in the fourteen years of performing his story, he feels that he doesn’t own it anymore. That he has put it out there in all its confusion, offering its paradox to the world. Questions of what is compassion and what is forgiveness are universal, and the story is uplifted by the magnanimous manner in which he tells it. Citing a line once said to him that “forgiveness is the letting go of what would have been,” Moran truly walks the walk and talks the talk. And what a talk this is.
It’s almost impossible to describe a play as “riveting,” without the fear of being accused of resorting to hyperbole, but there wasn’t a moment in the play where Moran did not have my full and total attention. Even in a sequence when he and his director make a conscience choice to turn out all the lights and focus one tiny spot on his face in order that he may tell the crux of his story, as if around a campfire, my mind didn’t wander for a second. That’s a special achievement, which serves as an apt metaphor for the entire show. It is a story told around a campfire; one that might chill you, thrill you, scare you, move you, delight you, inform you … all of those things and more. You exit the theatre with one thought in mind: Martin Moran gets the tricky part exactly right.
Photos: Edward T. Morris
The Trick Part is playing November 29th through December 16th at the Barrow Group Mainstage, 312 W 36th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10018 . www.alltherageplay.com