Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) 

Will Eno's Pulitzer-nominated play is being billed as a send-up of one-man shows, but that only begins to describe it. Premiering in Chicago after successful runs in Edinburgh and New York, this stream-of-consciousness monologue makes a floppy felt hat of the confessional form, beating the material into numerous conventional shapes, from expressionist fable to romantic elegy to rickety, denial-choked consideration of the whole communicative undertaking. It holds any given shape only for fleeting moments, and trades mightily on the hoarse shadow laughter that trails every "heartfelt" declaration in the Theater of Me. But it's also undeniably earnest in its irony, creating a palpable sense of the aching self-consciousness behind it. Eno's real subjects--the mysteries of corporeal life, the way our adult selves are cast in patterns born of early, arbitrary injuries--find haunting expression in his lyrical but cutting style. Lance Stuart Baker, who's recently channeled David Sedaris and Adam Rapp, is a no-duh call for the role of Thom in this Theater Wit production. His intelligence, sensitivity, and command of language suit Eno's tricked-out head games perfectly, and his fragile intensity has never been in sharper focus. a Through 4/12:

Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 7 PM, Viaduct Theater, 3111 N. Western, 773-506-8150, $25.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/courtesy of Johnny Knight Studio.

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