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But enough about me

First-person journeys through the absurd, the tiny, the troubled and surreal

Photo: , License: N/A, Created: 2008:07:10 20:36:57

Are you confused? Unsettled? Vaguely annoyed? Or, are you, like, whatever? Good. You are now in the perfect frame of mind for Thom Pain (Based on Nothing), the gripping, confounding, valedictory performance from perennial Fringe presenter David Lee before his departure for New York City. With this production of Will Eno’s acclaimed 2005 absurdist monologue, Lee shatters the reputation for outrageous camp built by his past hits Hedwig, Pie-Face and Rigfried and Soy. Instead, standing on a nearly bare stage with close-cropped hair and horn-rimmed glasses, Lee looks like a cross between a Mormon missionary and the psychopathic engineer played by Michael Douglas in Falling Down – and his deadpan yet deeply felt delivery is twice as unnerving as either.

It’s impossible to give an accurate plot summary for Thom Pain; the intentionally frustrating script is a fragmented series of circular soliloquies about “this dead horse of a life that we beat,” broken up by borderline-hostile audience participation and fourth-wall-breaking breakdowns that would alienate even Artaud. The nearest comparison for this parade of ominous non sequiturs is Samuel Beckett’s monologue “Not I,” if it were recast as a standup routine. Thom Pain has a subtle, insidious humor (declaring “I’ll wait for the laughter to die down” when no one is laughing, coining the disturbing adage “love cankers all”) but it isn’t exactly a laugh-out-loud knee-slapper. Unlike some Fringe shows that leave you temporarily flush with good feelings that quickly fade away, Thom Pain’s parade of horribles handed me a disquieting sense of dread that still lingered a day later. The only thing more disturbing would be missing your chance to experience Lee, long among Orlando’s finest artists, in such an intense and unexpected role.

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