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Thom Pain (based on nothing)

From 25 critic and 201 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Quirky, Clever, Absorbing, Disappointing

About the show

Drama Desk Award-winner Will Eno returns to Signature for a new staging of his surreal and very real one-man show, starring Michael C. Hall ("Dexter," "Six Feet Under," "The Realistic Joneses.") More…

"Thom Pain (based on nothing)" follows Thom Pain as he desperately, and hilariously, tries to save his own life…or at least make it into something worth dying for. Directed by Oliver Butler (Obie and Lortel Award-winning "The Open House").

More Than The Play Blog

“This play tells a captivating tale of loss of innocence, finding love, losing love, and maintaining hope. Eno plays with words in play that vividly depict the dichotomy of life’s journey. His use of language brilliantly paints the landscape of emotion that floods the turning point events that define a life...Butler seamlessly connects moment to moment, pulling truth to the surface of this distinctive theatrical work that is rich in subtext...A masterful and genuine perfo... Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

“Eno steps over, under, and in between the resting places of the literary canon’s most prominent surrealist writers of the past and present. Eno seems to stop there to chat, listen, tremble, and laugh with these greats, echoes of whom cascade across the stage in a stunning performance by Hall...Hall surgically deconstructs Pain’s life of seeming desperation and abuse with charismatic and winsome charm that alternately embraces then shuns the members of the audience.” Full Review


“Nothing much happens in this 70 minutes of seemingly aimless ruminating. And yet there's so much beauty and humanity in it...Hall brings out the dark poetry of this play. He is ingratiating without ever being fully knowable...He's funny, charming, and completely believable...An astoundingly intimate show...A direct look into someone's unfiltered brain — sometimes wandering, ugly, and shallow, while at other times focused, lovely, and profound.” Full Review

Front Row Center

"The thoughts and observations falling out of his mind are not linear and dance from avoidance, to gallows humor, to deep profundity that will leave you searching those parallels in your own life. There is a deep poetry in Eno’s words (me being a fan of Bukowski), a poetry of reflection, judgement and the bitter irony of what befalls us as we grumble, stumble and tumble through our lives." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"The 70-minute monologue never really coheres into a discernible storyline, which will certainly prove frustrating for those looking for a linear narrative. But the play's deliciously clever wordplay and theatrical inventiveness provide myriad rewards for the more open-minded. Signature’s current revival particularly highlights the work's strengths, thanks to the actor's formidable charisma and charm.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

"Eno, whose richly idiosyncratic use of language has made him one of the most distinctive creative voices of his generation, is addressing the challenges of self-expression...Eno, Butler and their collaborators are showing us humanity at its rawest and most essential, and Hall—ironically seductive (as Thom should be), wearing a suit and tie, no less—captures the desperate energy and longing beneath Thom’s caustic wit, while serving that last factor impeccably." Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

"Hall keeps us mesmerized with just the right amount of confusion to make us wonder what is real and what isn’t, what is truth and what is not. When he asks several times if we like magic, he is also referring to the magic of theater, which Eno and director Oliver Butler tear down rather elegantly. It’s a disorienting yet exhilarating experience, a journey into the digressive nature of life...and the mind of a man trying to find his place in the world, just like we all are." Full Review


"Will Eno's terrific new a sort of anti-TED talk, a rambling lecture that embarks on a series of digressions but never reaches anything like a point." Full Review

The Wrap

"A thrilling revival...The stop-and-start storytelling alternates from the wry to the absurd to the profound, like some kind of existential stand-up act...Hall commands the stage just as he did when he played the M.C. in Broadway’s 'Cabaret,' especially when he leaves the stage to wander into the audience, asking questions without actually waiting for (or expecting) answers." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Lest one think Thom Pain makes for miserable company, Eno has created a highly entertaining, poignant, and intellectually stimulating evening...As Thom Pain, Hall is outstanding. He has the requisite charm to bring the audience into his confidence, while sporadically gesturing toward the seething bitterness and sadness just below the surface...Under Oliver Butler's direction, this is also a master class in comedy." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"'Thom Pain' completely strays from the comfort of familiar dramatic elements like character or plot: the show is quite literally based on nothing...To do all this and literally say 'fuck you' to the audience, while still maintaining their respect and attention, is flooring to witness. While unsuspecting audience members might be offended, this revival underlines how, even fourteen years on, there are so many aspects of Eno’s play that the theatre world is just beginning to scratch the surfac... Full Review

Time Out New York

"Eno’s text is a wonderfully light thing—a butterfly’s erratic passage through a man’s mind as he tries to narrate both his past and the constant, irritating demands of the theatrical present...'Thom Pain' has to fight a little too hard to be heard, where director Oliver Butler has given it a very handsome and polished revival. Michael C. Hall performs Eno’s script with immense charm (if not danger), but it’s a piece that requires the intimacy of a mind moving very close to yours." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"At just over an hour, 'Thom Pain' goes on a bit too long. But the play remains mostly entertaining thanks to Eno’s deadpan humour and some playful audience interaction, which leavens its knowing solipsism...Hall blends the devilish charisma he brought to Showtime’s ‘Dexter’ with the forlorn mien of Fisher in HBO’s ‘Six Feet Under’. He seems at once pitiable yet faintly intimidating. And by the end, we still only have a hazy idea of who he really is.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Playwright Will Eno asks a lot from his audience in terms of patience and openness, and with Michael C. Hall’s brilliantly captivating presence as the tour guide, we, on the most part are willing to be caught...Butler and Hall tug and tease our heart playfully with full commitment to the task, but leave us feeling a bit empty at the end, even with the entertaining mystic of possibility being engaged with." Full Review


"Sitting in the literal dark with the unpredictable narrator of Eno’s intellectually dizzying drama is still a dangerous thrill...Hall’s deadly deadpan is deeply funny, in an unnerving way...Hall tries his level best to be true to this self-absorbed character; but he just can’t help himself. He’s a fine actor, but a personable one, much too likable to pull off the character’s blinding, self-regarding narcissism." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"A persuasive actor, sensitive to the mood of the viewers he addresses, Hall conveys the impression that Thom is disappointed over how his life so far as turned out, but has not yet turned bitter about it...The largest among Signature’s three theaters, its 294-seat space, with its deep, expansive, 60-foot wide stage, is not so conducive to an intimate solo show such as this one, but Butler’s supportive production and Hall’s intriguing presence usually are able to bridge the distance." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

“The script reminds me of the comic ‘Peanuts’, with Lucy repeatedly pulling the ball before Charlie Brown can kick it. Thom repeatedly promises the audience something and then abruptly retracts it...He alternately charms and alienates the audience...Lodged amidst the self-laceration and passive aggression are some very funny bits...If the thought of a rambling rant does not appeal to you, skip it. If you are a Michael C. Hall fan, you’ll want to catch it.” Full Review


"Eno's play is much more than just a playful comic lark...Michael C. Hall is dynamic enough as an actor to hold our attention for 70 minutes, keeping us rapt through Pain's quicksilver mood changes and evasive forays into whimsy. But a sense of pained inner life is lacking in Hall's interpretation, with the actor seemingly prizing speed over depth in delivering his character's ramblings...It's a tribute to the richness of Eno's play that it survives a relatively superficial approach." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"A strange beast...’Thom Pain’ feels like a proto work, a precursor to deeper observations to come. All of Eno’s trademark concerns are there...His playful toying with language is as enjoyable as ever. But the frequent asides and digressions, while fun, are a technique that Eno wisely came to use more sparingly...Hall registers an emotional blankness, giving little sense of the man hiding behind Thom’s verbal gymnastics.” Full Review


“The script is a series of smooth set pieces that must be catnip to an ambitious actor but leave a reflective playgoer unsatisfied...The 2018 ‘Thom Pain’ is no more satisfying; but the magnified scale suits the grandiosity of Eno's exercise in synthetic Beckettry...Hall grabs the audience's attention; and he holds it firmly through even the most lackluster moments of Eno's script...Despite the benefit of Hall's fine performance, Eno's play is likely to be as polarizing in 2018 as it was in 20... Full Review

The New York Times

"Oliver Butler’s new production lets some fresh air and even a sliver of sunlight into the nocturnal depths of its title (and only) character’s imagination...But while I’m usually grateful for glints of optimism in these cynical times, I can’t honestly say that this transformation is for the good...Mr. Hall is best in relaxed moments of semi-improvised interaction with the audience. But this Thom is seldom lovably loathsome enough to make us squirm." Full Review


"Hall is a fine actor who keeps the audience fascinated, but he turns the play into a stand-up routine, purposely, rather than inadvertently, joking with the audience members and reacting to their laughter, even after lines that merit only shocked titters. Every interpretation is valid, but why spend an hour-plus with a pleasant, slightly irritating person when you could just as easily be moved, shocked, and titillated by a borderline lunatic." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Canon or not, faced with Eno’s play now, I found myself recoiling from its aggressive flippancy. There’s something brittle and deceptive about 'Thom Pain’s' systemic self-deprecation...The pleasure of the production is watching Hall in moments of simple, full presence...The problem is that what 'Thom Pain' wants to be and what the play is are two different things." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"I struggle to see anything profound in 'Thom Pain'...But I can’t deny Eno’s sly wordplay...For Thom’s jousts and jabs to feel like something more than random cleverness and intermittent entertainment, the actor must somehow show us an interior life that’s seething, longing, striving, bursting with sadness and anger and resentments and pain that he’s trying to mask. One might suppose that such seething could come easily to Hall...There is less menace than master of ceremonies." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"I'm mystified by the entirety of Will Eno's play, beginning with the title, which seems to reach in the direction of cleverness before pausing, thinking about it, and giving up altogether...At times, 'Thom Pain' feels like nothing more than a series of delaying tactics with no discernible endpoint...Michael C. Hall, the star of this production, brings much more presence than his predecessor, along with some dry humor and tantalizing intimations of psychological darkness." Full Review

Hilarious, Great acting, Delightful, Clever, Absorbing

See it if You want to see a one man play, a dialogue/story for the audience. Want to laugh over silliness and the meaning of our random lives.

Don't see it if You don't like one man plays, random thoughts expressed as they come into your head, or enjoy Michael C Hall. He even signs the playbills!

Pain pure pleasure

See it if You love Mr. Hall and a surreal meta experience.

Don't see it if You want traditional theater. Plot, other characters and set design are woefully missing.

Also Tour de force performance which boggles the mind. There is nothing com... Read more Read less

Great acting, Edgy, Intense, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

See it if You want to experience great acting and a play that actually is about something, Humankind. Very existential in its message.

Don't see it if You are not into serious and somewhat disturbing plays. This is not meant to be an enjoyable night out to the theater but not to be ignored

Also It can be compared to a play such as Waiting for Godot. Very thought-p... Read more Read less

Dizzying, Great acting, Ambitious

See it if You want to enter into a dreamscape where your perception of reality starts to bend. Also Michael C Hall is an all-time great actor.

Don't see it if You want easily digestible theatre.

Quirky, Great acting, Dizzying, Absorbing

See it if you want to see beautifully performed stream of consciousness that eventually makes sense of the human condition...if you let it.

Don't see it if you need everything to make sense at face value rather than in a very ethereal way

Also Michael C. Hall (Thom Pain) is brilliant. Kudos to him for not only me... Read more Read less

Masterful, Great writing, Great acting

See it if You want to see a masterful play handled by a masterful actor.

Don't see it if You don't like one man shows.

Also The combination of Will Eno's words and Micheal C Hall's ability to be... Read more Read less

Great staging, Great writing, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if M.C.Hall is quite good with this challenging show. I have seen it twice as I really like his work as an actor

Don't see it if Don't go if low action monologues aren't your thing.

Resonant, Profound, Delightful, Absorbing, Quirky

See it if You want to experience one man’s cerebral meanderings through his lifetime of memories and experiences shared with an audience.

Don't see it if You dislike one person shows or shows without a strong story line. This has no clear plot beginning, middle or barely an end.

Also I loved it. Michael C Hall does quirky, in your head stuff so well...I... Read more Read less

Masterful, Intelligent, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if you're not familiar with Eno's work, and if you are, go to remind yourself what a unique storyteller he is. An exquisitely understated show.

Don't see it if you need spectacle and a linear plot.

Great writing, Great acting, Clever

See it if You like a one man show that’s acted and written brilliantly without a linear plot.

Don't see it if You’re looking for a traditional storyline and drama.

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Clever, Absorbing

See it if you like Will Eno or Michael C. Hall, you like provocative theatre, you enjoy one person shows, you are open to new theatrical experiences

Don't see it if you're not a fan of too clever or over-thinking theatre, you want your ticket price reflected in the set, you don't like the 4th wall broken

Also Thom Pain is not as it purports to be a play "about nothing." It is a ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Dizzying, Confusing, Funny, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy one person theater and like to be totally involved in every word.

Don't see it if You enjoy musicals and drama.

Thought-provoking, Profound, Intelligent, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if you want to see a show that makes you think. The play doesn't have a typical linear story - almost like a stream of consciousness monologue

Don't see it if you don't like plays without a coherent and chronological storyline.

Also there were a lot of aha moments even if it seemed funny and quirky. Th... Read more Read less

Sly, Philosophical, Fluid, Suave, Smart

See it if you would like to see a brilliantly written piece of philosophical stand-up comedy brilliantly performed.

Don't see it if you are looking for a traditional drama: this is (essentially) a 1-man show.

Also I saw the original production of “Thom Pain” by a then-unknown Will En... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if You're a fan of Michael C. Hall- he's terrific and it's a one man show. You like when performances aren't cookie cutter.

Don't see it if You don't like the breaking of the 4th wall. You want a linear plot.

Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great writing, Great acting, Clever

See it if You're a Will Eno fan - while Wakey Wakey (100 score) makes you feel AND think, this makes you think (missing the feeling).

Don't see it if You don't like Will Eno or Michael C. Hall - who is BRILLIANT in this

Quirky, Funny, Great acting

See it if You want to see Michael C. Hall deliver a difficult performance in a masterful way. Thought provoking and entertaining.

Don't see it if You need a linear plot, or a plot at all.

Intelligent, Profound, Great writing, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if you enjoy an unconventional monologue brilliantly acted and existential ruminations on the randomness and meaning of life.

Don't see it if you prefer a traditional story line or big productions.

Entertaining, Clever, Absorbing

See it if Of course fans of Michael C. Hall (Dexter) will flock to this show, but there is more to the play than his stature as a Cable TV star.

Don't see it if If you don't like one man shows with quirky monologues and non-linear storytelling.

Memorable (even if you don't like it)

See it if you like Michael C. Hall; if you like subtle, quirky (and sometimes bizarre) humor; if you like absorbing solo performances

Don't see it if you don't like a few references to mortality; if you don't like solo shows; if you think 70 minute shows are too short

Great writing, Quirky, Edgy, Great staging, Great acting

See it if Hurt man humoursly displays his pain. Eno provides the ennui & Hall serves the irritation. Set appears abandoned mid-task by the thoughtless

Don't see it if Sixty-five mins. of Holden Caulfield-esque uneasiness and superiority. If you're waiting for a Kevin or a Dexter breakdown, look elsewhere.

Also Thom Pain's life, like the set, is under construction.

Clever, Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Intense

See it if You want to see a fast moving one man show performed by a superb actor.

Don't see it if You are looking for an entire evening at the theater. (The show is only about 70 minutes). Or if you don't like one man shows.

Devastating, Insightful, Funny, Sad, Profound

See it if Introspective rumination on life under the spell of depression. Deeply sad, lonely & vulnerable; and painfully funny. Gave me much insight.

Don't see it if You don’t want to connect and empathize with a depressed character. You don’t enjoy solo shows. This is all a monologue by one character.

Also Example event: A depressed child loses his innocence when his dog dies... Read more Read less

Intense, Quirky, Great acting, Clever, Absorbing

See it if You like stream of consciousness/non-linear productions. Michael C Hall can do no wrong.

Don't see it if You want straight forward story telling. You feel a bit uncomfortable/awkward at times, which serves to make it more thought provoking.

Intelligent, Great writing, Great acting, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if you like well-acted and well-performed one-man shows; you enjoy existential ruminations on the randomness of life; you love Michael C. Hall!

Don't see it if sparse one-man shows aren't your thing; you're looking for complex staging, design, or even a finished stage

Cast & Creatives (8)