Almost 15 years have passed since Martin Moran’s The Tricky Part premiered Off-Broadway. In 2004, stories of authority figures preying on children, though in the news, were not the media commonplace they’ve become. This solo drama about the author’s sexual relationship with an adult counselor from a Roman Catholic boys’ camp was an eye-opening tale of childhood trauma and its myriad aftereffects. Back then Moran’s accomplished performance of his own material, mixing pain and humor, registered as valiant self-exposure, affording audiences unprecedented insights about a stigmatized subject.
Scott Organ’s opening scene for The Thing With Feathers is deceptively creepy for anyone attuned to the dangers of the Internet. A young girl, Anna (Alexa Shae Niziak), is sitting on her bed, with paperwork around her, and she’s talking to a man named Eric—someone she has never met. They have clearly bonded online over poetry, particularly Emily Dickinson. They recite stanzas of Dickinson’s “Life” to each other: “For each ecstatic instant/We must an anguish pay/In keen and quivering ratio/To the ecstasy.” The voice gently probes elements of her home life and her relationship with her mother. The scene promises a literate, solidly structured drama, and it delivers.