Playwright: Martin Moran
At: Bailiwick Repertory Theatre
Phone: 773-883-1090; $25
Through Aug. 27
BY SCOTT C. MORGAN
Any die-hard Broadway fan can point out actor Martin Moran during the infamous Titanic show tune clip screened at the North Halsted bar Sidetrack. He's the blond guy playing radio man Harold Bride in the opening trio singing, 'There she is…'
If you feel an impulse to grab a handful of cocktail napkins to fling in the air, do so. But you'd better cling onto those napkins if you see Moran's autobiographical play, The Tricky Part, at Bailiwick Repertory. You'll need something to soak up the tears when you hear Moran's unsettling story about the man who stole his childhood and his ongoing attempts to find measures of peace and forgiveness as an out, grown man.
Raised very Catholic in Denver's suburbs, Moran was sexually abused by a thirtysomething former Catholic camp counselor named 'Bob' for three years starting in 1972, when Moran was only 12. In a confluence of coincidence, Moran comes into contact with his abuser again 30 years later to sort out all his lingering anger, ambivalence and surprising measures of forgiveness.
Since 2004, Moran has performed his acclaimed one-man play in cities across the country. He goes into even more explicit depth about his life in a 2005 memoir, also called The Tricky Part.
For its Chicago premiere at the Bailiwick, The Tricky Part is being performed for the first time without its original author. ( Moran is currently starring on Broadway as David Hyde Pierce's replacement in Monty Python's Spamalot. )
While this decision definitely takes away from some of the authenticity of hearing the tale from its source, The Tricky Part is still able to hold up as a moving anecdotal drama about one man's struggle to examine his emotions which are etched more in shades of gray than easily deduced extremes of evil and saintly black and white.
Like Moran, actor Kevin Mayes is a blond pretty boy who uses his affability to get the audience on his side. Mayes plays Moran quite well as he navigates director Cecilie D. Keenan's expert shifts in time and perspective.
As a play, The Tricky Part serves as a good distillation of Moran's experience, though it does pale in comparison with Moran's much more expansive literary memoir. Still, The Tricky Part deals with a very disturbing subject matter with plenty of intelligence and heartfelt emotion that seems therapeutic for Moran, if not those who suffered sexual abuse as children and are coping with the lifelong aftermath.