Will Eno is back at the Signature with his one-man show Thom Pain (based on nothing) starring Michael C. Hall and directed by Oliver Butler. This is a play that’s hard to explain. This is Mr. Eno’s most autobiographical play, but whether or not he’s been diagnosed, it feels like you are inside the mind of someone suffering from severe attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. This is not to say I didn’t like it, but I’m not sure I got it – or if there is even anything to get.
The play begins in the dark with Mr. Hall saying how glad he was to see us as he tries to light a lighter. Some laughed, but it was uncomfortable laughter. And this is how much of the play went. Thom Pain is part stand-up, part interactive theater and part philosophical ramblings. Thom tells stories beginning with one of a boy in a cowboy outfit playing with a stick in a puddle. His dog is electrocuted and then he quickly switches gears to tell us about a failed love affair. He switches topics again to discuss his fear of bees and then asks if we like magic tricks or if we want to check our tickets for a winning raffle number. It’s a roller-coaster ride without much meaning or connection. There were funny moments, uncomfortable moments and moments where polite laughter acted as filler.
Mr. Eno toys with you in Thom Pain. He deliberates the wonders and mysteries of the world and then dampens the mood talking about life’s disappointments. Michael C. Hall, cast as Mr. Eno’s “alter-ego” to reflect his voice, was terrific. He could be derisive and warm in the same sentence as he moved around on and off the stage. I stayed for a talk-back with Mr. Eno and Mr. Butler with the hope of better understanding this play. When someone asked about the theme of Thom Pain neither playwright nor director had a definitive answer and their answers differed from mine. I felt the play was about fear and love, the two most basic human emotions. Both are wonderful and scary and like this play can leave you in awe or disoriented and confused – often at the same time. LAR
Signature Theatre, The Pershing Square Signature Center
Ticket Price: $35
Discounts: None available at this writing
Running time: 70 minutes, no intermission
Runs thru: December 2, 2018