Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!
During a theater season, we are constantly searching for a play that speaks to the heart and soul and intellect. They are few and far between. I have never seen Martin Moran in anything before, but “All theRage,” which he wrote and in which he stars, touches the inner core of humanity, spirituality and humor. He received an Obie and two Drama Desk Nominations for his one-man play, “The Tricky Part,” based on his memoir of the same title.
Moran is an eminently likable storyteller with something important to say—both in English and more surprisingly in French. Directed by very well by Seth Barrish, Moran, slim, in a light blue shirt and dark corduroy pants, moves around the stage briskly and confidently on Mark Wedland's seemingly spare set highlighted by Russel H. Champa's specific lighting. Using a globe on a large wooden table, an opaque projector/visual presenter and two large chalk boards for displays, he welcomes the crowd.
Then it's off to the races. We learn that he is gay and when he was 17, class president and depicting Jesus in the class play, his divorced dad introduced him to his new wife; he hated this chain-smoking, bleached, over-made-up horror. He describes his relationship to her as the “Thirty Year War.” As a younger teenager, Moran was sexually abused by his coach. He is full of revenge for both these two destructive people, but somehow when it comes time to letting them know this, he is overcome with compassion. And he asks with a puzzling question that framed the play; where is the anger?
A professional actor (a long stint on Broadway in the musical “Spamalot”) forces him to want to do more meaningful things with his life. After being turned down by Doctors Without Borders, through the International Institute he becomes a translator for a man who is applying for asylum, Mahamat “Siba” Mousala from Chad. Siba's tale of capture and torture is terrifying and Moran tries to handle this life-changing experience in English and French, involving the examining doctor as well. It is a brilliant piece. We must add here that performances on February 6 and February 17 of “All the Rage” are in support of The Refugee & Immigrant Fund. “Siba” is separated from his wife and child and he prays, while adjusting to the U.S., that he will find them and see them again.
There's an international flair to “All the Rage” as Moran travels from Denver to West Africa to Johannesburg and learns about Pangea- which means one world. Yet the work has a wonderful New York vibe. There's not one moment in this 80-minute exploration that lags.
At the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Playwrights Horizons, “All the Rage”-- a lesson to be learned.