Review: Thom Pain (based on nothing)

Morbid but witty one-man show from Urban Aphrodite

Dir Christy Shapiro

Cast John Pokrzywinski


Local theatre company Urban Aphrodite takes a sharp turn away from the tension of last month’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with Will Eno’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated Thom Pain (based on nothing), a morbid but witty one-man monologue.


The show begins in the dark, with a man on stage struggling to light a cigarette. From that point on, it becomes clear that Thom Pain is not about a man for whom life has been easy. For the course of its one-hour run, the show features the title character standing alone on stage as he muses about several traumatic life experiences: the death of his childhood dog, a harrowing bee-sting incident, and the loss of his first love.


As the three stories intertwine, the monologue provokes feelings of devastating loss and life’s inevitable mediocrity. Yet, a sense of macabre humor prevails, from Pain’s sarcastic self-deprecating silliness to his half-hearted bits of audience involvement. This, combined with Pain’s slightly disheveled appearance, almost makes the show seem like a stand-up comedy gone awry.


With it’s low ceilings and cramped space, the top floor of Sasha’s is again a perfect setting for the intimate show. The small venue allows actor John Pokrzywinski to navigate his way around the stage and chairs to best make eye contact with each and every audience member, making them squirm not only with his tense stories but with his attentiveness. The audience has no room to run away from the title character as he waxes on about life’s hard truths. As he delivers the difficult monologue, Pokrzywinski delivers as relatable and realistic Pain.


As dark as it is, Thom Pain may not be a show for everyone – however, for those looking for a thought-provoking piece of theatre, Urban Aphrodite’s intimate presentation hits just the right notes of discomfort and humor that have made the show acclaimed world-wide.


Thom Pain (based on nothing) is at Sasha’s (third floor) from May 3-4. See full event details