All the Rage is a sequel to Martin Moran's first one-man play, The Tricky Part, which told the story of his molestation by a counselor at Colorado's Camp St. Malo when he was twelve -- a relationship that continued over three conflicted years. Moran, who'd grown up in Denver and graduated from George Washington High School in 1978, subsequently wrote a book based on the play, and it was a review of that book by John Moore, then of the Denver Post, questioning Moran's apparent lack of anger, that sparked this new work: All the Rage is an exploration of anger and forgiveness. See also: Grounded Is Right on Target in BETC's Powerful Production
When I first saw The Tricky Part, I admired the way Moran had handled the complex material. He admitted to mixed feelings of shame, loathing, affection and desire toward the molester, without minimizing the pain this man had caused. He described the pity and sadness he felt on encountering his tormenter, sick and broken, later in life. But while there was a lot I liked about The Tricky Part, which won an Obie in 2004, at times it felt more like a therapy session than a play.
While Moran continues his own soul-searching in All the Rage, he also opens the windows to a more universal perspective. He tells us about his father's second wife, a hateful, homophobic woman. When she makes some particularly wrenching remarks after his father's funeral, he suddenly finds his own arm raised for a blow. And then the arm descends and, in an astonishing and inexpressible moment, his hand rests gently over hers.
Moran feels a kind of awe for those who can express anger freely, illustrating this with a very funny account of a traffic-rage incident he witnessed -- but he simply cannot find this glorious lack of inhibition in himself.
Although All the Rage is self-analytic, it's anything but solipsistic. Moran finds himself, at the age of fifty, galloping around a Broadway stage on an invisible horse and clopping coconut halves together as Sir Robin in Spamalot and wonders what his life adds up to. He wants to be good. He looks for models. He ponders the words of philosophers and saints. Eventually, he starts working as a translator for a center that aids torture victims. Here he encounters Siba, a refugee from Chad, who was abducted and tortured by rebel soldiers and is separated from his wife and children, whose whereabouts are unknown. Moran is moved and sobered by his growing understanding of this man's life, by Siba's grief, flashes of humor and forbearance. He bears no malice toward the soldiers who took him, Siba explains; they were uneducated men who had no idea what they were doing.
This regional premiere at Curious Theatre Company is a straightforward production, with classroom-level effects that include maps and a globe, and a pleasantly unassuming host who still effortlessly holds the audience silent and entranced -- except for occasional spurts of laughter. But while it seems discursive, All the Rage is eloquently written and thoughtfully structured. And with the help of those maps, the play goes beyond incident and anecdote. It takes us to the Sterkfontein cave in South Africa, known as the cradle of humankind -- there's a humorous moment as Moran illustrates our evolution to Homo sapiens -- and here he learns of the legend of Pangaea, a time when all the continents of the world fit together in a single land mass. Spooning, as Moran says.
The idea that on some level we are all one is simplistic, and Moran doesn't insult our intelligence by articulating it -- but he does evoke the compassion and capacity for forgiveness in all of us, our yearning for wholeness, the sudden, inexplicable joy we sometimes feel at a significant encounter with a stranger, or when we understand something new about someone we thought we knew through and through. All the Rage leaves us thoughtful, entertained and uplifted. And that's quite a trick.
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All the RageCurious Theatre Company, runs through October 5 at 1080 Acoma Street. The Tricky Part will reprise for four performances during the run. For schedules and ticket information, call 303-623-0524 or go to curioustheatre.org.