Entertainment » Theatre

Thom Pain (based on nothing)

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Feb 4, 2019
Jeff Church in "Thom Pain (based on nothing)," running through February 24 at the Burbage Theatre Company.
Jeff Church in "Thom Pain (based on nothing)," running through February 24 at the Burbage Theatre Company.  

Will Eno's "Thom Pain (based on nothing)" is not a conventional play, but a stream of consciousness monologue delivered by the title character over the course of 65 minutes.

It's a challenging role and Jeff Church proves to be the right man for it. In the last few years, Church has been a dynamic supporting actor in several Gamm theatre productions including "Gloria," "The Importance of Being Earnest," and "As You Like It." He also impressed audiences in Burbage's "Shakespeare in Love", which he also directed.

Under the direction of Vince Petronio ("Wolf Hall"), Church gives a showstopping performance. Standing on an empty stage and wearing all black, Church has a wild gleam in his eyes and sometimes seems on the verge of madness. He's amusing and charismatic as Thom attempts to charm a female audience member with compliments.

Thom tells the story of a boy and his dog. After awhile, the story becomes more and more bizarre, even disturbing. Thom dives into other subjects before describing a romance that devastated him. His heartache is palpable and Church beautifully conveys Thom's sadness.

Thom drinks from a flask, starts discussing subjects then abruptly changes the topic to something else, and throws in a batch of random observations for good measure.

Thom says he has "a very rich interior life" and talks of his propensity for consuming vitamin supplements.

Thom alternately berates and compliments the audience while expounding on a variety of subjects, including mortality, love, the universe, accidents, bee stings, the "inner child", pink elephants, and a horse in a bar. What does it all mean?

At one point, Church brought an audience member on stage for a magic trick he never tried.

The real Thomas Paine was an English-born philosopher and political activist during the 1700s. Paine is known for keen observations and witticisms, such as "Character is much easier kept than recovered" and "The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

"Thom Pain" is an offbeat show that manages to entertain and inspire deep thoughts about the world around us. Church makes for a hypnotic tour guide through the madness.

Eno's Thom Pain is a philosopher for our times, only a more fractured and haunted one. In a world which seems to be edging ever closer to oblivion, "Thom Pain (based on nothing)" invites us to connect with our own weaknesses and to find a way to rise above them.

"Thom Pain (based on nothing)" runs in rep with This Is Our Youth through February 24. Burbage Theatre Company. 249 Roosevelt Avenue. Pawtucket, RI. www.burbagetheatre.org

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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