Anger management

  • by Richard Dodds
  • Tuesday December 6, 2016
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Martin Moran explores the uses and misuses of anger in <i>All<br>the Rage,</i> being performed in repertory with<br>his earlier show <i>The Tricky Part</i><br>at ACT's Strand Theater. Photo: Joan Marcus
Martin Moran explores the uses and misuses of anger in All
the Rage,
being performed in repertory with
his earlier show The Tricky Part
at ACT's Strand Theater. Photo: Joan Marcus

You're unlikely to find a more affable storyteller talking about pedophilia than Martin Moran. The Broadway musical veteran is currently in residence at ACT's Strand Theater, where he's performing in repertory two interrelated solo shows. He first performed The Tricky Part in 2005, which I reviewed at San Jose Rep, so the following will focus more on All the Rage, which he wrote nearly a decade later. The newer show was written at least partly in response to reactions to The Tricky Part, but he gives us enough of the gist of the first show that All the Rage can work with or without taking in The Tricky Part.

The new show has been ingeniously staged by Seth Barrish using low-tech devices like a pull-down map, an overhead projector, a chalkboard, and various lights and lamps that Moran himself switches on and off. It helps establish an informality that eases transitions that can shift from comic to sad to tragic in a beat. And it helps that Moran comes across as such a gentle soul, someone who wouldn't want to push upset onto us.

That's particularly true in The Tricky Part, in which sexual abuse over several years by a camp counselor, and Moran's long quest for some kind of resolution, lead to a reunion with the predator. He must disarm audiences to keep them open to the story that, like All the Rage, must comfortably speak about the unspeakable.

After providing a quick background on The Tricky Part, which he has performed across the country, he pulls out a yellowing tearsheet from The Denver Post, his hometown newspaper, with its review of The Tricky Part. He reads part of it: "Most troubling is his inability to be angry and move on." Those types of reactions, he says, "kind of piss me off."

But he thought about anger, and whether he needs to cultivate it, and various experiences began to coalesce into a piece about the nature of that burning emotion. One seemingly inconsequential impetus came from a confrontation he witnessed between a pedestrian and the driver of an oversized SUV who pulled into the crosswalk a moment after the light had changed. "Get your fucking gas guzzler out of my face," shrieked the well-dressed pedestrian. "You're the reason we're in Iraq, bitch!" The intensity stunned him, and he filed it away into a memory bank that would build into All the Rage.

As Moran recounts a considerably more disturbing episode, working as a volunteer translator for a tortured refugee from Chad seeking asylum, he leavens the account with absurdity. He performs brief excerpts from his paying job at the time as Sir Robin in Spamalot on Broadway between his sessions with the preternaturally peaceable refugee.

Moran bobs and weaves through his experiences " perhaps none more harrowing than his poisonous relationship with his homophobic stepmother " and there are no tidy resolutions to the question about when and if anger can be a necessary outlet. The most therapeutic emotion that Moran seems able to muster is forgiveness.

 

All the Rage and The Tricky Part will play in repertory through Dec. 11 at ACT's Strand Theater. Tickets are $25-$65. Call (415) 749-2228 or go to act-sf.org.