Thom Pain (based on nothing)
Review by Willard Manus

THOM PAIN (based on nothing) is exactly the kind of play one hopes to see at a Fringe Festival. It’s offbeat, strange and unsettling, yet brilliantly original and compelling as well.

The solo drama comes to the Hollywood Fringe with a distinguished pedigree. It was first produced in 2004 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, then it moved to a London theatre. A year later it transferred to the DR 2 Theatre, New York, where it became a Pulitzer finalist. In 2016 the Geffen Playhouse mounted its own production of the play. Now, six years later, THOM PAIN returns to L.A. with Johnny Patrick Yoder delivering the cryptic monologue written by Will Eno and directed by Bryan Keith.

A mixture of stream of consciousness, stand-up comedy, shaggy-dog story and poetic discourse, the monologue is delivered by Yoder as he stands on a bare stage staring sardonically at the audience. With no intro, he launches into his long rant with its echoes of Beckett and Ionesco.

His pained life slowly unfolds as he begins to recall the emotional and psychological blows that have assaulted and traumatized him in the past. They include being attacked by a swarm of bees and seeing his beloved dog die. Later, a girl he loved rejected him in a brutal and contemptuous way.

These tales aren’t told in a linear way, but impressionistically, with spurts of realism mixed in with flights of fancy and spiced with wisecracks, non sequiturs and insults. Yes, insults. Yoder thinks nothing of vocally attacking the audience, tricking it (announcing a raffle only to abruptly cancel it), playing one mind-game after another.

Does all this sound self-indulgent? Obtuse? Annoying? The answer to these questions is yes, but at the same time THOM PAIN manages to say profound things about the discomfort and isolation of existence, the pain of being human.

(The Broadwater, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd.