BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE | Martin Moran’s wonderful new solo piece “All the Rage” is an examination of anger, compassion, and how each of us can become conscious of the common threads between these seemingly disparate emotions. Moran, a writer and Broadway actor, previously examined the challenges of healing from sexual abuse and finding a kind of grace in “The Tricky Part.”
The new piece is not linear in its narrative, though the through-line is Moran’s attempts to find compassion and connection in life’s chaos. Over the course of the play, we encounter characters who include his father’s wife (he refuses to say “stepmother”), a refugee he is trying to help, and others who illuminate his search. Thanks to Moran’s sensitive writing and exceptional performance, each of them vividly comes to life.
In a conversation with him shortly before the play opened to enthusiastic reviews across the board, Moran discussed his process and the piece with Gay City News. “The only way I know how to possibly poke at things is through story,” he said. “It’s like what William Carlos Williams said: ‘There are no ideas but in things.’”
Martin Moran’s freighted journey into compassion
In getting to the bottom of the rage he felt and, hopefully, healing from it, he explained, “All I could do was poke at these deep questions by being alive and being human. Stories are the way we experience or uncover morality or reality or an idea or a sense of who we are.”
He admitted that developing the piece — to say nothing of getting through life — has been a challenge.
“Part of what’s been so terrifying has been circling and circling the unsayable,” he said. “It’s hard to articulate, on this deepest level, but what I think about a lot is how profoundly we really hurt each other. We bomb each other. We fly into buildings.”
Still, he juxtaposed that grim assessment with what he views as the desire everyone shares for connection with others. When we understand our deeper connection to one another and appreciate that the divisions between us are illusions, new levels of compassion are possible.
“We are called forth to find compassion,” Moran said. “I’m so fascinated. It’s hard to speak about, but we are clearly living out some spirit of separateness at the same time we want to love and hold one another. And sometimes I wonder if the purpose of consciousness is to understand separateness so that we can experience union, which is love, the deepest vibrating engine under everything — under war, under pain, and under beauty.”
And so each of us is on a quest to find out whether we can understand and forgive. Just as he does in the play, Moran explained that his understanding of this search began with people asking him, “Where’s your anger?” While writing “All the Rage,” he acknowledged, he became obsessed with anger but also achieved insight.
All this can seem esoteric, but Moran’s considerable gifts as both writer and performer translate into stories of his spiritual journey that touch the hearts of his audience.
“Each pivot point in the play and in the stories are a kind of bubbling up of consciousness that’s larger than me or my story,” he said.
ALL THE RAGE | Peter J. Sharp Theater | 416 W. 42nd St. | Sun., Mon., Wed.-Sat. at 7 p.m. ; Sun. at 3 & 7 p.m.; $55 at ticketcentral.com or 212-279-4200