Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Tricky Part

Martin Morann
A photo of a smiling 12-year-old boy, standing in a kayak and brandishing an oar above his head, dominates The Tricky Part, Martin Moran's shocking, sad, but ultimately cathartic one-man play now at Signature Theatre's intimate ARK Theatre in Arlington, Virginia. However, the full significance of the photo does not become clear until well into Moran's examination of his life, as he was then and as he is now.

As directed by Seth Barrish, Moran, a personable singing actor now in his late forties, acts as he might in his own living room, sharing charming stories of his Catholic childhood in Denver in the early 1970s. (He sets the stage with James Taylor recordings that serve as an instant time machine to audiences of the right age.) He tells of how proud he was to attend Christ the King Church and School, learning the life stories of the martyrs ("Halloween is nothing to a kid from Catholic school") and trying to balance the demands of life and afterlife as described by the nuns and priests.

Gradually, Moran draws in the audience by talking about his letter to a mysterious older man, now sick and living in a veterans' hospital, and alluding to some unfinished business between them. He eventually describes the overnight trip he and another boy took with this older man, who had been a counselor at a church camp and now was setting up his own camp. This man offered the boys positive lessons about the outdoors, the constellations and survival —but he also gave Moran experiences that continued for years and burdened him with guilt and confusion for decades.

As grim as that sounds, The Tricky Part is not about the destruction of childhood innocence as much as it is about one man finding his way back to stability and, in religious terms, grace by confronting the pathetic man who damaged him. Moran asks, "Is it possible that what harms us might come to restore us?" He has managed to find a positive answer to that question, and he shares his resolution through the communion of a shared theatrical experience.

Signature Theatre
The Tricky Part
January 29th —February 17th
A one-man play written and performed by Martin Moran
Directed by Seth Barrish
The ARK Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or

Photo: Carol Pratt

-- Susan Berlin

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