Review: Ronald Gross’s Highest Recommendation




Written and Performed by Martin Moran
Directed by Seth Barrish  
The Barrow Group312 W. 36th Street 
Through Oct. 5th 
Review by Ronald Gross
New York Theater Buying Guide 

IN BRIEF:  Our highest recommendation!  Powerful, stirring one-man show about a gifted theater artist’s lifelong struggle to cope with sexual abuse in his youth, his issues with anger, and his ultimate winning through to compassion.     

In his very first moments on-stage, Martin Moran introduces us to his unique form of memoir – free association of critical incidents in his life which have challenged, propelled, and scarred him. “I’m dying to tell  you about this dream I had.  But first, let me tell  you about the fight I had with my father’s wife.” Immediately, we are in the grip of a Ancient Mariner who has has had a lifetime of therapy.  (He soon confesses that the agon with his father’s wife was “my own Thirty-Year War.”) 

Moran’s journey is one to which many of us may feel called: “Seeking the way to best express our anger” whether at New York City drivers or America’s immigration policy.  Along the way, he reminds us of what the sages have said of anger, including wisdom from Aristotle, Seneca, and the Buddha.  And he himself comes out as authentic practitioner of Compassion.  You may find yourself wanting to follow his lead and reach out to your companion to lay your hand on his or hers, as Moran teaches us to do. 

Eventually, Moran finds himself spiritually spent at appearing eight  times a week in Spamalot, and discovers his real human and spiritual work.  I won’t tip what it is – but you will live it alongside him through much of the show, and one of its principles could be his credo for this dimension of his life: “You are merely a shared tongue – nothing more.” 

Manhattan itself is a vivid “character” throughout this show.  Maran takes you up and down the West side, particularly the theater district where he works, by subway, walking, eating, meeting friends and colleagues.  Sometimes he’s satiric, encountering “All suits and purposes”; but more often he’s wonderfully affectionate as he swings through Leonard Bernstein Place and comparable landmarks to his life in the arts. 

“How do you forgive the unforgiveable?” is the way Moran puts his quest at one point – and his devotion to the cause of male-on-youth sexual abuse is expressed in his unremitting commitment to “One in Six”, the organization that works with and for that number of men who are survivors of this desecration.  At our performance as at numerous others during the show’s run, there was a rewarding Talk-Back with Moran and leaders of this organization.  At upcoming performances the guests will range from the representatives of the International Rescue Committee, to Deputy Manhattan Burough President Matthew Washington, to Congolese artist Toto Kisaku (the reasons why these are such apt persons will be clear). 

This run is a revival of the show which won the 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show.  All the Rage was released as a book in 2016 by Beacon Press – and the book, available for purchase,  includes substantial amount of writing that goes beyond the scope dramatized in the show.