Thom's Pain is based on something but I just really don't care.

The Cutting Ball Theater's current production of Will Eno's Thom Pain (based on nothing) features Jonathan Bock giving an absolutely terrific performance. For about an hour, Bock holds the stage on his own and also holds the audience on a leash, since much of the play involves him questioning or threatening those in attendance.

On a certain level this requires an actor of unique abilities since one can never really know how an audience is going to respond to being provoked and in that sense this is a play that would likely reward being seen more than once if you're into that kind of thing, which I usually am. The play can be experienced at least two ways, probably more. One, is to take at relative face value and see it as one young man's (picture Holden Caulfield at 25) realization that the future essentially holds nothing for him and watch him as that inner terror is unleashed outward in alternating currents of sardonic commentary and emotional pleading.

For me, this didn't work because the play feels too precocious or even worse, condescending. One can almost see behind the mask of the playwright as if Eno was thinking aloud to himself, structuring the words and the character to make it all so very deep, profound and disturbing and in the end it's like being lectured to by someone who thinks he's the smartest person in the room.

The problem for me is I have a friend who often is the smartest person in the room and when he gets drunk this play is pretty much what he sounds like, though my friend has more experience, a larger vocabulary and is much more confrontational when he's had a few. As you can imagine, this isn't a pleasant experience and it's not enlightening or thought-provoking but it is tedious and it leaves me depressed after witnessing him in his cups, brilliant and insightful as his ravings can be.

The other way one can read this play is as an exercise in making the audience self-conscious of itself and viewed this way this play is something of a miracle, though I have no idea if that's Eno's or Cutting Ball's intent. Never have I been so aware of the precarious nature of what can take place between an audience and an actor as well as how I felt as a distinct member of an audience and how my individual presence and the distinct personalities of others could or did influence what was taking place in front of and around me. In that way, it's a theater experience I'm unlikely to forget.

I just wish the play itself made me care more about the character or the audience or even my own impending trip into an empty void, but sadly it didn't.