Directed by Seth Barrish
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
As the twenty-first century moves forward, events national and global have not only raised mortgage rates, the rate of unemployment, the amount of the national debt, and the level of bickering in the United States Congress but also has raised the level of national, global, and personal rage. That level of rage is apparent in the experience of many in this decade except one: Martin Moran seems to dodge the vicissitudes of rage and chronicles his experience with rage in his new “All the Rage” currently playing at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater in New York City.
Like the ultimate therapist, Martin Moran makes himself available to each member of the audience with his offer of unconditional and non-judgmental love. Transference and counter transference fill the sacred spaces between Moran and audience members as he chronicles his struggle with expressing rage. There is a great deal in Moran’s story that would (and should) result in rage: he was abused early in life by Bob a Roman Catholic counselor; he was repeatedly verbally abused by “Joyce” the woman he refuses to call his stepmother.
Rather than deal directly with his rage, Moran often chooses the paths of projection and sublimation. His rage is redirected toward careless cab drivers or sublimated in doing commendable and important “good works.” Indeed. Much of the content of “All the Rage” concerns Moran’s work with the Refugee and Immigrant Fund (www.AsylumHelp.org). There is also a significant presence of the performer’s history with his abuser Bob although Moran clearly states at the beginning of the piece that “All the Rage” is not about that event.
Rage is a natural and necessary stage of grieving. Recovery from sexual or psychological abuse requires the same process of grieving following the death of a significant person. One needs to experience the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (in no specific sequence). Rather than succumbing to the naturalness of grieving, Moran seems to function well within a process he calls “rehearsing consciousness” which embraces forgiveness and celebrates the connectivity of humankind (“flesh of my flesh). For example, when Moran is about to rage against Joyce, his almost accidental touch of her hand defuses his rage. He even refuses to express rage when he reconnects with and ailing and aging Bob in his adulthood.
Moran’s choice to sublimate his rage is not only commendable but needs to be embraced as his choice. Not everyone deals with rage in the same way. However, as we move forward in life we continue to experience death whether physical or emotional and we need to allow ourselves to grieve at what has been lost. So anger or rage walks with us throughout life and it, too, is flesh of our flesh and needs to be embraced and understood – for to ignore it might be something like dying itself.
What makes “All the Rage” remarkable is not its content alone: Moran’s writing and performance style are both marked with originality and grace. He writes and performs the way the human brain functions and the human mind meanders seemingly aimlessly to construct resolution. Armed with a troop of rhetorical tropes, Moran makes his unique case for balancing rage with forgiveness, projection with passion, and finding acceptable and commendable ways to anchor him in the matrix of the human experience.