Tom Smart, Deseret News
David Spencer stars in Plan B Theatre's upcoming production of "The Tricky Part" in Salt Lake City.

It's on the list of top worries for every parent: sexual abuse of a child, especially by someone trusted by the family.

That's the difficult subject matter tackled in "The Tricky Part," Plan-B Theatre Company's latest production, which opens Friday and runs through June 15 at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.

"I was really intrigued by the script. I read it, it scared me and I put it away," said Jerry Rapier, producing director of Plan-B and director of "The Tricky Part."

Every couple of months since, Rapier would read the script and, again, put it away. "One day I was putting a bunch of stuff in my office and it fell off my shelf. I read it again and I thought, 'I think it's time for us to do this."'

"The Tricky Part" recounts the true story of playwright Martin Moran — young Martin, a shy 12-year-old boy with detached parents, a curiosity about the world and a Catholic counselor who would notice Martin's need to belong.

"The reason it scared me so much was because of the subject matter. It's a topic I didn't have a lot of knowledge about and what appealed to me about the play and what also scared me was the hopeful nature of the play," Rapier said.

Hopeful nature of sexual abuse?

"It's not a confession from a victim. The play is an epiphany of how to not let this abuse overtake his life anymore; how to cease giving it power. Not, 'This is what happened to me and I'm damaged by it.' It's more, 'This is what happened, this is how I was damaged and this is how I'm moving on and healing.' That part scared me because I didn't get it."

Moran is adamant that the play isn't really about his past. "I think the interesting thing about theater is it happens utterly in the moment, in the present. The act of telling the story is not so much about living the story in the past — it's a provocation of questions in the present."

Moran repeats that last sentence, pauses and continues, "Those questions are, to me, the most important — the complexities and paradoxes it gives rise to."

The one-man tour de force is in the capable hands of veteran actor David Spencer. No stranger to one-man shows (he received critical acclaim for his performance in "I Am My Own Wife,") Spencer was initially intimidated by the fact that it's such a personal story and the playwright is still living.

"That was a real stumbling block for me for a while, it was quite intimidating. I thought, 'Oh my — this is extremely personal.' The more I read it and the more I realized how close it is to the person. But the important thing is that his story be told."

"I did not set out to write a book or play initially," said Moran of his story based off his book, 'The Tricky Part: One Boy's Fall From Trespass into Grace.' I just set out to try to find meaning in what happened. For me it was very private and very secretive at first."

But the response has been positive. "Tremendous response. And not just about the subject of sexual abuse, but one's relationship with the past. How do we make peace with who we are and what's happened?"

Moran continues by citing another example. "In this case it's about a man driving drunk and killing his family. That kind of forgiveness, it's so profound but it is the territory of God. I think a lot of people have responded to my story because it focuses on the search for forgiveness and not just for the other person, usually for the self as well."

"I think that's something we all can identify with on some level," adds Rapier, "the judgement of our younger self by our adult self. That can go very negatively or very positively, and that's something that Moran brings to the forefront — at some point you have to free your younger self."

That's a theme that Spencer tries to bring to the character, "this epiphany of forgiveness and moving on. The things that happen to you in your life — they shape the person that you are. When you accept that and move forward from that into the place of light and forgiveness, life can be really beautiful. That's the energy I get from him."

Moran continues, "I once heard a man say he thought the truest definition of forgiveness was a complete letting go of all hope of having a different or a better past."

"In other words, forgiveness is a kind of gift you give yourself to release you into the present. As long as you're in a state of unforgiving, the past has its arms around your throat. This is the one life to find meaning."

If you go ...

What: The Tricky Part, Plan-B Theatre Company

Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South

When: Friday through June 15

How much: $18

Phone: 355-2787


Also: Post-show discussion, June 1, 3:30 p.m., free

E-mail: [email protected]