Rainn Wilson brings Will Eno’s one-man show “Thom Pain (based on nothing)” to the Geffen Playhouse 10 years after it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. First playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2004 and then at London’s Soho Theater, the show transferred Off Broadway the following year when James Urbaniak essayed the role.
The solo-act opens with the theater in darkness as Thom (Wilson) says, “How wonderful to see you all” and tries unsuccessfully to light a match. It seems like standup, except it’s also undercut with the philosophical. Audience interaction is a huge part of the show; or rather, Thom pretends to interact with the audience, asking questions and then dismissing them without waiting for answers. In the parlance of today, he says, “Whatever” sardonically.
Thom starts to tell the audience the story of a little boy in a cowboy hat, but never gets through the tale. He talks about his relationship with a woman who tells him, “You’ve changed” on a first date, but, again, we never hear the whole story. But each time he returns to either story, Wilson’s tone changes from serious to sardonic so you wonder what it’s all about. That’s where the second part of the title comes in, one supposes.
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Frequently interrupting himself and breaking the fourth wall, he calls on the audience, sits on the side and offers to do magic tricks. Wilson keeps the audience rapt during the taut show running a little over an hour, wondering if he really means it when he says there will be a raffle and to keep their tickets, or that he’s looking for a volunteer from the audience.
Wilson’s deadpan delivery makes Thom that much more amusing even while he offers very little backstory for the character. Obviously Thom has been through some pain and rejection, which he then inflicts on the unsuspecting audience.