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Thom Pain (based on nothing)

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I don't know very much about this play and that's okay since sometimes it's nice to be surprised. I bought the ticket because I like Michael C. Hall in anything he does. His Hedwig and the Angry Inch really blew me away a while back. I never knew he could sing especially in such a demanding and unconventional part.

This is a one man which should be interesting. Seeing it this Saturday. Maybe a review will follow.




Thom Pain (based on nothing) by Will Eno at Signature Theatre

Will Eno is a Lucille Lortel and Obie Award-winner and the first writer to complete the Residency 5 program. His previous plays at Signature include Title and Deed in 2012, The Open House in 2014, and Wakey, Wakey in 2017. His internationally heralded play Thom Pain (based on nothing) was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.


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I saw the Sunday matinee. A quick 60+ minutes. A one man monologue, and as the title says is "based on nothing." Seriously, it's a rambling state of consciousness dialogue that for the most part is forgettable. I will say I enjoyed Michael C. Hall and thought he was very good.

What I didn't get was the shambles the theater is in. I wasn't sure if it was deliberately done for this production or the theater is under a state of renovation. Odd.

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I was impressed with Michael C Hall’s ability to memorize all that dialogue. Although since it didn’t make that much sense to me he could have been ad-libbing. Nevertheless he’s a charming, attractive and talented actor. Maybe this is a case for “he could be reading the phone book”. Still a lot of it was funny and he did wander through the audience to bring a “volunteer” up to the stage which was fun and scary. He eventually did bring a man up onstage and mostly ignored him after that. I enjoyed the show but couldn’t tell you what it was about even after reading an explanation online later. As for the theater it certainly did appear to be a real renovation. If not the set designer should win a Tony. Well, maybe not.

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I agree with Foxy, an actors ability to memorize and pull off a 7o minute monologue seamlessly and almost effortlessly is to be admired.

I pulled the NYTimes review, and surprisingly, the construction is a set design!


Review: Michael C. Hall Probes the Despair of ‘Thom Pain’




By Ben Brantley


The dark and sulfurous chamber of Thom Pain’s mind has been unsealed for public inspection again. Audiences already familiar with Will Eno’s “Thom Pain (based on nothing),” which has been revived by the Signature Theater, may find this Stygian space roomier and less oppressive than they remembered.


Oliver Butler’s new production, which opened on Sunday night, lets some fresh air and even a sliver of sunlight into the nocturnal depths of its title (and only) character’s imagination. And with a handsome, self-assured Michael C. Hall in the role of Pain (a last name that shrieks volumes), he appears as less of a lost cause than he once did.


But while I’m usually grateful for glints of optimism in these cynical times, I can’t honestly say that this transformation is for the good. When I first saw “Thom Pain” at the tiny Soho Theater in London in 2004, its masochistic bleakness lingered on my skin afterward like a toxic slime.


I may have wanted to take a shower immediately, but I was also electrified by the original, full-frontal attack on the audience that Mr. Eno had engineered. It helped that Thom’s despairing monologue was delivered by an angular, snarly James Urbaniak, whose utterances felt as dangerous as a double-edged razor blade in the hands of child.


When Mr. Urbaniak’s Thom crossed the Atlantic the following year for a long Off Broadway run, Mr. Eno (who was born in 1965) was hailed as the theater’s new young messiah of existential despair. In a wonder-struck review in The New York Times, Charles Isherwood called him “a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.”


If, in its latest incarnation, “Thom Pain” seems to have shed its ability to shock, that’s partly because we have had a chance to become accustomed to the skewed perspective of Mr. Eno, whose later, fuller works include “The Realistic Joneses” and “The Open House.” But this relative tameness is also a matter of Mr. Butler and Mr. Hall’s interpretation.


To begin with, Thom — who spends the play’s 70 uninterrupted minutes wallowing in bitter self-consciousness — has been given more room to roam. Amy Rubin’s set has transformed the Diamond Stage at the Pershing Square Signature Center into what feels like a limitless construction site, with ladders, tarps and a gaping hole cordoned off with yellow tape.


The show still begins in total darkness, interrupted by the startling flame of someone trying — “trying” being the operative word — to light a cigarette. “How wonderful to see you all,” says a voice.


That’s our Thom, a man who lives to tease with prickly paradoxes and to undermine expectations — his and ours. “Do you like magic?” he asks, once the lights have come up to reveal Mr. Hall in a trim black suit, looking like a department-store mannequin. “I don’t. But enough about me.”


It is not enough, of course. The show proceeds as a sustained, cryptic, circular apologia pro vita sua, in which childhood tragedies and grown-up losses in love are anatomized like corpses in a forensic lab. That confession is sometimes told in the third person, sometimes in the first.


But there’s no question that it’s always all about Thom — unless you believe, as he likes to insist teasingly, it’s all about us, too, and our bewildered, desperate and ever-shrinking time on this planet.


Mr. Hall has established himself an accomplished and adventurous actor, both on screen (“Six Feet Under,” “Dexter”) and stage (brilliant as David Bowie’s alien alter-ego in “Lazarus,” and on Broadway in “The Realistic Joneses.”). Yet his Thom is self-conscious in the wrong ways.


His narrative of self-catechism and self-laceration has the carefully modulated quality of a classically trained actor doing an intense audition piece. Mr. Hall is best in relaxed moments of semi-improvised interaction with the audience. But this Thom is seldom lovably loathsome enough to make us squirm.


Thus delivered, the script now registers as the product of a restless and very talented young dramatist, showing off and playing with the influences he has absorbed.

The ghost of Beckett still hovers, but so do, just as visibly, the specters of T. S. Eliot, Edward Albee and Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man.


It’s Mr. Eno’s love for and grasp of rhythmic language that most impress here. Listen, for instance, to Thom’s trying to remember what might have inspired a young boy’s wet dream: “Some fuzzy uneducated image of a girl, saying a word he liked. ‘Voucher.’ Or, ‘Ankles.’”


Thom’s angst may feel a trifle sophomoric now, like something he might grow out of. But his way with words, and that of the man who created him, is already deliciously ripe.



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