In the space between sex and love, like the space between victim and abuser, there are always gray areas.
It is those areas that the one-man show "The Tricky Part" sets out to explore.
Originally written by Broadway actor Martin Moran, this production by Buffalo United Artists and performed by Louis Colaiacovo is a touching retelling of Moran's tale of sexual abuse.
A simple set with a rug, two chairs and a table serves as the backdrop for Moran's story, one that traces his boyhood in the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts through his life-altering fall from grace, perpetrated by a 30-year-old counselor and mentor named Bob.
Colaiacovo, outfitted in a white shirt, red tie and vest, gives a fine performance, adding nuanced humor at the right moments, shifting subtly and seamlessly from gentility to rage and back to acceptance as the story rolls along. Colaiacovo and director Kelli Bocock Natale seem to latch on to the idea that Moran's anger, as he says early in the play, "seems to be lost somehow in complicity."
At the start, we're treated to a very funny exposition about Moran's childhood in the church, during which Colaiacovo's comic talents are at their height. He describes the morning ritual of Catholic school, in which everyone attends 8:30 Mass. "Just another tribe starting the day," Colaiacovo says, eliciting great laughs with a line that on its own wouldn't even be chuckle-worthy.
He waxes nostalgic about the nuns at school, most notably the strict and imposing Sister Agatha, whom he describes as "a moving cube of church."
Soon enough, though, we flash forward to the present day, as Moran is on his way to a veterans hospital where he will visit Bob for the first time since he was 14. When he makes a phone call to confirm the visit with Bob, he says, "The tenor and pitch of his voice enters my body like a lance."
From that moment on, the show is considerably less humorous, and for good reason.
The issues the show approaches -- the confusion of a relationship so one-sided that the idea of "consent" is laughable, the drive to commit suicide, the co-opting and abuse of a child's feelings and the way those feelings mutate with time -- are known by too many young men.
Moran's play is a well-written examination of those feelings, but its goal of really delving into those gray areas, the so-called "Tricky Part" between abuse and thrill, never gets quite deep enough.
There's also something strange about hearing such a personal, sexual story told in earnest by someone other than the author himself. The material seems a bit too close to Moran to truly hold its own without him.
It is, nonetheless, a moving experience to see Colaiacovo tell Moran's story, a challenge he has taken up with great skill and care.
"The Tricky Part"
Drama presented by Buffalo United Artists running through May 5 in Main Street Cabaret, 672 Main St.
For more information, call 886-9239 or visit www.buffalobua.org.