Gil Reyes in Thom Pain (based on nothing). Photo-Theatre [502].

Thom Pain (based on nothing)

By Will Eno
Performed by Gil Reyes
Directed by Mike Brooks

Reviewed by Rachel White

Entire contents are copyright © 2012 Rachel White. All rights reserved.

The beauty of the SLANT Culture Theatre Festival is that it is an opportunity for artists in our city to do unusual work without any fear of consequences, financially or otherwise. Many of the projects feel like artistic baby orphans: interesting, beautiful even, but too unusual to house anywhere else. More than that, the work in the festival feels personal.

This is never more evident than in Theatre [502]’s production of Thom Pain (based on nothing), Will Eno’s one-man existential comic tragedy. The play is performed by Gil Reyes as Thom himself and is directed by Mike Brooks. This work is uncharacteristically bleak for the group, but it contains enough humor mixed in with the pathos to make it a worthwhile risk. Thom’s darkly comic monologue, with its rambling stream-of-consciousness style reminiscent of Samuel Beckett, is peppered with moments of deep pain and memories of childhood tragedy.

Reyes delivers the monologue in a weary deadpan, murmuring in some places, and at times talking so quietly as to be barely heard. He flippantly recalls painful stories as though they mean nothing to him at all. But just when you think Thom has given up on the world, the pain hits him, and we hear the memories rapidly filing through his brain one right after the other and we see that the events in his life have left him callous and disinterested – but also that they still affect him. We see that Thom’s attitude of nonchalance is a façade to protect him from more suffering, his contempt for the audience masking an inward self-loathing.

There is something brilliant in the idea of writing a one-man show for a man who is so psychologically alone. Often, one-man shows are used for autobiographical purposes, and Eno turns the genre on its head, melding the form with the content. The play feels like a trip into one man’s psyche rather than a performance for us, and at times the character of Thom feels more like a state of mind rather than a person.

Yet Eno’s mischievous humor, punctuating some of the heavier moments, gives the piece its humanity. There is a significant audience participation element that you think is going to mean something, but it doesn’t – he’s just messing with you.

Reyes holds the stage for that time, in a quiet, slightly smug, wounded way, his Thom hunched over, trying to light a cigarette, leering into the crowd. It’s not easy to carry the stage for that amount of time, but he does it really well, finding himself in Thom and allowing us to find ourselves there as well.


Thom Pain (based on nothing)

Nov 16 at 7:00 pm
Nov 20 at 9:00 pm
Nov 22 at 7:00 pm
Nov 24 at 5:00 pm

Theatre [502]
Part of the Slant Culture Theatre Festival
Walden Theatre
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40206