If you saw Titanic, or Bells Are Ringing, or Spamalot (later in its run), then you saw Martin Moran on Broadway and you know what an ingratiating and talented performer he is. In his extraordinary new solo show All the Rage, he recalls a night when he had a bit of an epiphany during a curtain call:
I’m playing ‘Sir Robin,’ one of the Monty Python knights on a quest to find the Holy Grail!! The meaning of life....Been rehearsing, performing this for 22 months. So damn lucky to have work, but…I think I’m losing my mind....The company comes forward, final bow, as we take hands and sing: "Always Look on the Bright Side of life"... the orchestra swells, confetti bursts forth from hidden cannons....and oh God, I look down and there’s a woman sitting all alone in the front row, sobbing. Yes, I know, I want to say, I know. Maybe it’s working in fantasyland eight shows a week while the actual world, the news unfolds. I mean, twenty minutes with the Times can just undo you. Guantanamo, water boarding, Newtown, The Congo, Afghanistan the lists of soldiers: 22 years old, 24, 33…gone, while you’re sipping coffee in a comfy chair, utterly disconnected and complicit somehow, wanting to act, but… You know? What are we doing?! What’s going on here?
Unlike too many of us, Martin Moran did something about that scary sinking feel of disconnection. The story of what he did makes up the greater part of All the Rage, and I want you to see and hear it for yourself.
Know that Moran's skills as a storyteller and performer are as apparently boundless as his energy and curiosity and compassion. Those qualities are the stuff of this tale, which takes us on an amazing journey from Manhattan to the Las Vegas desert and the Rocky Mountains and the cradle of humankind in southern Africa (maps and globes figure strongly in the narrative, and constitute many of the well-exercised props in the show). Along the way we meet some remarkable, unforgettable people, including Martin's South African driver Tommy, his father's alienating second wife Joyce, his angry brother Dave, a Manhattanite at the end of her rope stuck in traffic, and a courageous young man from Chad named Mahamat “Siba” Moustala who is seeking political asylum in the United States. Moran tells of his encounters with these and others with great humor and humanity in language loaded with imagery and heart. Under the very unobtrusive direction of Seth Barrish, he paints pictures with words and touches our minds and souls with vivid physicality and immense warmth.
If you saw The Tricky Part, Moran's first solo show, which played off-Broadway nearly a decade ago, you know that he was the victim of abuse for a prolonged period, when he was a teenager, at the hands of a trusted camp counselor named Bob. Bob is part of All the Rage, too, and the events depicted in The Tricky Part along with Moran's act of recording and telling them as well as the aftermath of that act inform this new show and, in a way, gave it its title. Moran tells us that he is asked, after people learn what happened to him, "where is your anger?" It's a question that comes up several times in All the Rage. The answer to the question is the key to what the show is about.
All the Rage touched me deeply; made me feel hopeful about a world that sometimes seems too overwhelming for any emotion save despair. It capped a month of exceptional theater-going, too; I'm feeling really good about how 2013 is shaping up as a banner year for new American drama.
Kudos to the engaging design of Mark Wendland (set), Clint Ramos (costume), Russell H. Champa (lighting—much of it managed by Moran himself on stage), Leon Rothenberg (sound), and Bart Cortright (video); and to the worthy producers (piece by piece productions, Rising Phoenix Repertory and The Barrow Group). All the Rage is a magnificent theater experience, all the more so for being so wondrously modest and intimate. It's a privilege to spend an hour and a half in Martin Moran's company. If you're ready to be moved and to be reminded of the power of stories and the potency of the human spirit, you will want to take this in.