Tom Smart, Deseret News
David Spencer is the sole actor in Plan-B Theatre Company's "The Tricky Part," based on real-life story of playwright Martin Moran.

It's a simple picture — similar to one you've seen on people's mantels or in photo albums.

A slim 12-year-old boy stands in a kayak, life jacket fastened, holding the paddle triumphantly over his mop-head of hair, and a big smile.

Yet after seeing Plan-B Theatre Company's production of "The Tricky Part," the photo takes on a whole new meaning.

People left the theater looking at the picture included in each playbill, studying the boy's face. What's he thinking? Is he really happy? Isn't this after it happened? Who could do that to this sweet boy?

Based on the real-life story of playwright Martin Moran, "The Tricky Part" is about 12-year-old Moran, his relationship with the Catholic Church, his uneasiness with himself and a camp counselor who saw an opportunity.

"The Tricky Part" is a seemingly simple show. One table and chair serve as the set, and one man, David Spencer, completes the cast.

Telling this difficult true story requires equal parts warmth and humor as well as fear, confusion, guilt and anger. And he needs to be human, engaging and captivating for 80 minutes.

Spencer, under the direction of Jerry Rapier, does just that.

Think of someone you know who is a great storyteller — giving nuance and character to the people in the story, without necessarily putting on a different hat and becoming that person.

That's what it's like watching Spencer as Marty. Telling the story as a grown man, there are times it feels like you're watching the 12-year-old or the nun built like a box, "a moving cube of church."

Using slightly different vocal inflections, subtle gestures and postures, Spencer is at times the bully around the corner, or Bob, the camp counselor who would become so much more.

"The Tricky Part," though, is also about forgiveness, resolution, spirituality and letting go. Watching Marty's struggle to reconcile his past — which includes both forgiving and defending his younger self as well as making some kind of peace with the perpetrator — is a moving and intimate evening of theater.

Spencer handles the task wonderfully, bringing such warmth to this boy's story. By the end of the piece, seeing the smiling boy with the paddle held aloft, I think I speak for the whole opening-night audience, (judging by the applause and standing ovation) when I say I wanted to rush into that photo and do something. Hug him, protect him, talk to him — something to spare him the difficult journey that lies ahead.

Sensitivity rating: Some language, sexual discussion.


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