Monday, December 03, 2018

The Tricky Part

Well-deserved raves for Martin Moran's heart-breaking solo piece, The Tricky Part, can be found at the Times, Theater Mania, and the Fordham Observer. I'm more interested in the why of the show.

Art design by Leah Vautar.

One-person pieces can be theatrical stand-up comedy (think Lily Tomlin or Rob Becker), stories of actual people's lives (think Will Rogers or Emily Dickinson), or recreations of novels or other stories, with the actor often playing dozens of roles (think Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, or Alan Cumming's solo Macbeth). With the advent of Spalding Gray, Holly Hughes, and other soloists of the later 20th century, solo performance expanded into memoir and performance art. These pieces are frequently personal, revealing, and devastating.

The Tricky Part is a monster story told around a camp fire, except that the light of the fire is provided by Elizabeth Mak's beautiful and evocative lighting design and the monster is the then-30-year-old man who molested Moran when he was 12. The writing and performance are amazing. Moran speaks to us personally, confiding in us his deepest wounds as though we are each alone his closest friend. The show is impeccable.

But I find the idea of the show troubling. And odd. What is it in a person that motivates him to tell this deeply personal and painful story over and over to rooms of strangers all around the world? What does it feel like?

I understand the idea of writing about one's personal life. I do it often. But when you write something for publication, you send it away from you. You're not there when people read it. You don't put your body, heart, and soul on the line performance after performance. Also, while you are writing you have the ability to take a break and watch an episode of The Good Place or Fixer Upper.

Performing your intimacy, however, is immediate. It happens in real time. Moran cannot say, "You know what, I'm not in the mood tonight." The show must go on. And he is the show; his life is the show; his pain is the show.

In reviews and articles about The Tricky Part, people refer to the power of shared stories, the importance of testifying. I guess that makes sense, but doing it again and again and again and again and again? I just don't understand the impulse.

Obviously, Moran gets something useful and satisfying out of The Tricky Part. And it's clear that the audience does as well. Hence the rave reviews and standing Os. But I just kept feeling that I was eavesdropping on something I should not be hearing.

Wendy Caster
(5th row, press ticket)
Show-Score: 90

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