It was good to get back to Ranga Shankara and theatre after a long hiatus, and it so happened that it was a play from the land I had left behind!
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Poorna Jagannathan Productions was staging, as part of the Martin Moran India tour, his play, “The Tricky Part”.
The play, written and performed by Martin Moran, is the story of his life. Between the ages of 12 and 15, he had a sexual relationship with a much older man, who was actually a counselor he met at a Catholic boys’ camp. How he resolves the ancient conflicts, and his “fall from transgression into grace” form the script.
Here is the Wiki entry about the play,which won the Obie Award in 2004. Martin has evolved the play from his book, which won an award for gay non-fiction in 2006.
The play is unusual in that it is the actor talking to the audience, and Martin segued into the conversation so neatly that it took a minute or two to realize that this was, indeed, the play, and not the introduction to it.
At times, he addressed the audience; at times, he seemed to take a step back from the narration by apparently reading aloud from his journal. It was very unusual to have an actor directly looking at the audience and addressing them, through the 85 minutes of the play.
Martin did not pull his punches; the description of the first seduction was described in harrowing detail, as were many of the emotions and the turmoil that he experienced. One can marvel on many levels; the courage it must take to bring these facts out into the sunlight (or the stage lights); to treat the incidents with a leavening of humour, keeping the audience riveted through the duration of the play. It is no mean physical feat, too, to talk with such intensity for an hour and a half. Perhaps many stagings of the play has given him some distance, but it was deeply disturbing for the audience…hearing about someone’s attempts to commit suicide was certainly a new experience for me.
I must mention the lighting. Changing the focus, and the mood of the play, highlighting only the actor at times and the whole stage at others, the lighting contributed immensely to the effectiveness of the play. The excellent brochure produced for the set of two plays does not give lighting credits; perhaps the playwright “trains” someone at each venue!
The stage set was very simple indeed; a chair, along with some simple props, was all that was needed. Martin wore everyday clothing, so there was no “costume” element as such.
The direction by Seth Barrish was of a very high order. The best direction is that which is hardly felt. No doubt Martin’s being word-perfect with the script, and having a personal experience of the events described makes for more intensity, but the deft direction made the staging a telling experience.
I had earlier watched a video trailer of the play here. Amazingly, he looks much younger on stage than he looks in this video!
Poorna’s message in the brochure was also very moving, quoting Frederick Douglass: “It is easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men.” Sexual abuse of girls may at least be talked about now, but that of boys, hardly ever.
Considering that it was a working day, there was a reasonable house, which felt quite encouraging (and the audience was humorously thanked by the playwright!)
However, as the audience filed out in sombre mood, one of them remarked, “It was moving, but we face so much of this, and fight so many battles each day, it’s difficult to face, and I’d rather have something more relaxing and easing at the end of a hard working day.” Perhaps this remark would help explain why such social evils exist and thrive in our society.
“The Tricky Part”
Written and performed by Martin Moran
Directed by Seth Barrish
Produced by Poornima Jagannathan
Ranga Shankara, 11 and 12 Nov 2014.
Another solo performance by the same playwright, “All the Rage”, is being performed at Ranga Shankara on Thursday, 13 November 2014.