(based on nothing)
Reprise is as transfixing as it is clever
|Theater Wit presents|
|Thom Pain (based on nothing)|
Review by Katy Walsh
Lance Baker (Thom Pain) reprises the role that won him a 2007 Jeff Award for Best Solo Performance. Fast forward six years and it seems like Baker has been frozen in time and recently thawed out. He is this enlightened, yet ordinary, pessimist. Baker starts the show speaking from a dark stage. He warns the audience not to laugh at his hideousness. The lights come up, and we see Baker looking dapper in his suit. Hideous? This initial realization that Baker shares connects us to the pain of Pain. His perception of reality is dark. For the next hour, we will be transfixed in Pain.
Playwright Will Eno penned an intellectualized, existentialist crisis aftermath. Eno wrote it as a story within a story within a story. Under the direction of Jeremy Wechsler, the monologue is tailored perfectly for Baker. His delivery is completely monotone. Baker sounds like an NPR storyteller. Eno’s jumbled ramblings are both sharp and profound. With Baker’s steady cadence, the audience sometimes has delayed comprehension regarding Eno’s hilarious meaning behind a passage. Multiple times it took me a few beats to fully grasp what was just said. I wanted to laugh, but by then Baker is on to his next life lesson learned. It would take multiple viewings to fully appreciate Eno’s impressively smart writing and all of Baker’s subtle nuisances.
Dare I say ‘clever’? Thom Pain reveals his disdain for the word ‘clever’ and indicates a preference to be remembered as ‘someone who is trying.’ Sorry, Thom! This show is clever. Infrequently, he interacts with the audience in a socially awkward way. The results are a mixed bag of emotions – on one hand, the shticks are funny; on the other hand, Baker’s ‘Denny Downer‘ garners an empathetic response. I’m constantly torn between wanting to laugh at Baker or hold his hand in these dark times. I’m sure he’d shrug my concern off with a well-placed ‘whatever.’
Thom Pain (based on nothing) is a powerful contemplation. Listening to Baker unravel his character’s personal history parallels into our own self reflection. ‘When did your childhood end?‘ The show will echo in your mind long after lights out on the stage and later lights out in your bedroom.
Thom Pain (based on nothing) continues through July 27th at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays 7pm. Tickets are $18-$24, and are available by phone (773-975-8150) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at TheaterWit.org. (Running time: 70 minutes, NO intermission. Late seating is not available for this production.)
Photos by Johnny Knight
Lance Baker (Thom Pain)
behind the scenes