Thom Pain is exactly what it claims to be: a play based on nothing.
Theatre Nervosa's one-man-show is a remount of A.J. Magoon's senior capstone at Marquette University last April. Nearly a full year later, the show takes the stage again at the Underground Collaborative. Directed by John Schneider, this frenetic piece explores fragments of Thom's memory, woven together by fear.
All photos credit of Lily Shea. A.J. Magoon.
In a word, Thom is trying. Will Eno's script, however, is not.
Eno has Thom scrutinizing minuscule details of his past with an erratic mix of storytelling and self-reflection. While Thom himself proclaims his own instability, the quest for the stable seems lost amidst the utterly strange. The juxtaposition of sexuality, adolescence, vulgarity, and the mundane is provocative beyond purpose.
Magoon is fully committed to the absurdity of Thom. As the play tosses and turns, Magoon deftly shifts between sardonic host to emotional turmoil, and back again. His comfort with the audience is key to the success of the performance - Thom frequently paces the house and squeezes between patrons while monologuing on his personal prowess. Due to the nature of the script, the audience does not readily accept this intimate actor-viewer relationship, but nevertheless, Magoon holds steadfast.
It's no wonder that Magoon brought this eclectic play back to the stage. It offers the actor a full spectrum of emotions and experience to explore. Magoon embraces vulnerability with open arms. Eno's script just doesn't invite the audience into that vulnerability. Overall, Thom Pain misses the mark, but Magoon rises above.