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THEATER REVIEW: “Thom Pain (based on nothing)” is perfect for proactive playgoers

A man (Adam Brick) walks onto a dark stage and says, “Nice to see you.”

That man is – or is not – Thom Pain: We never really know his name and assumptions are exactly what playwright Will Eno’s one-man existentialist rant “Thom Pain” is here to challenge.

“Thom Pain (based on nothing)” plays through Oct. 2 at New Village Arts Theatre, directed by Kristianne Kurner.

In the course of the next 65 minutes, the man will reminisce about his childhood, his love for and the unfortunate death of his dog and then ask the audience “When did your childhood end?”

He will later engage the audience in other ways: flirting with a woman, walking through the rows in search of the perfect onstage participant, posing a direct question to an audience member. It’s all quite unsettling and meant to challenge our preconceptions about theater, love, loneliness and the meaning of life.

This award-winning play had a sold-out run at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, after which it transferred to London and then off-Broadway, and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. But it is a tough sell for the average playgoer, full as it is of incomplete thoughts, non sequiturs and leaps of logic, all delivered as if in response to Sgt. Joe Friday’s request for “just the facts, ma’am.”

Some will call this existential b.s. But difficult as it is to watch, it’s about the human need for – and too frequent inability to attain – connection.

“Please don’t say that you were ... watching some smart-mouthed nobody work himself into some dumb-assed frenzy,” the man says. “Please say ... that you saw someone who was trying.”

If you’re an adventurous theatergoer in a “Waiting for Godot” frame of mind, give “Thom Pain (based on nothing)” a whirl.

The details

“Thom Pain (based on nothing)” plays through Oct. 2 at New Village Arts Theatre, 2787 State St., Carlsbad.

Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

For tickets call (760) 433-3245 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.