- OTHER MEDIA
- The Pain of Nothing
- San Francisco Examiner March 19, 2009 (Albert Goodwyn)
- Cutting Ball again risks warming the tepid waters flowing from the
pool of newer plays destined to be durable productions of hot theatre with
their current show Thom Pain (based on nothing). This rambling monologue
might seem like nothing, but the desultory nature of the one-man show is
deceiving. The play is about something; its about the absurd nature
of human existence, not just the final tragedy, but the mundane, quotidian
details of everyday life. Even Edward Albee (Whos Afraid of Virginia
Woolf?) thought playwright Will Eno to be one of the finest voices of contemporary
theatre. Eno also wrote Tragedy: a tragedy, recently performed at BRep;
to gain a sense of his use of irony, please see our review at http://www.sfbaytimes.com/article_p.php?article_id=7807.
Pain has played not only in Manhattan but also at Edinburgh Fringe and
in Seattle. This is its West Coast premiere.
- Cutting Balls production makes exquisitely concentrated use of
the stage space of their Tenderloin theater. The actor Jonathan Bock gives
a splendidly frenetic portrayal of a person on the verge of rationality
as he works the room, pacing left and right. His dead-pan delivery makes
his discursive, plot-free vignettes all the more philosophically intriguing
and his quick dismissals of subject matters keep the supposed free-association
- Or maybe the play does have a plot. As Thom Pain moves from story to
story, he weaves a kaleidoscopic target. The overall pattern is a visual
narrative that takes time to digest, maybe with more than one viewing.
He wanders from a tale about a boy in a meadow with bees and his imaginings,
to a city morgue, to a fake raffle, to stating that, I think about
- I tried to use my imagination on you, Pain says. The actor
seems at first to be deliberately cold and indifferent, but eventually
obtains good audience connection. He even presumes to solicit a volunteer
from the house. With Bocks personal involvement, he shows the work
of an actor who picks up the character. His delivery as a totally self-centered
person is frank and honest. He develops slowly into explosive action, but
his character manifestation at first is studied, with too much affectation.
The rôle as written is complex and difficult. There are numerous
possible interpretations. In under an hour, Bock and Director Marissa Wolf
have made a serious and convincing exploration of some deeply intellectual,
multi-layered material. In the end, Thom says, Nature laughs last,
ladies and gentlemen.