By Tori Hoover
Out of the darkness, Thom Pains voice comes to us. Do you like magic? he asks sullenly. I dont.
Thom Pain (based on nothing), Will Enos Pulitzer-nominated play and the Kenyon College Dance and Dramatic Clubs most recent production.
Thom Pain is just that a man in pain. The one-man show is stream-of-consciousness style. The protagonist recounts his disappointments, dwells on his love life, recalls tales and asks questions of the audience without ever giving answers.
The play is back-and-forth, in turns both darkly humorous and terribly heart-wrenching, but the writing could easily be read as pretentious, and one gets the impression that it would all feel like too much without the venerable Kenny Fedorko 13 at the helm.
Fedorko, a sociology major, has made numerous appearances on Kenyon stages this year, and Thom Pain owes its success almost entirely to him. In the hands of a lesser actor, the character could seem whiny, overly existential, a bit crazed.
But Fedorko handles the twists and turns of an injured, hurting man with deft grace. What could seem like an overlong 75 minutes passes rather quickly as Fedorko, alone onstage, shifts from anger to grief to wistfulness and brings the audience along for the ride. His performance is striking.
The direction of Sarah Blair Jenkins 13, done as a partial fulfillment of her senior exercise in drama, is sharp.
At times the play seems less like a performance and more like a conversation, man-to-man. The bare-bones decoration of the Hill Theaters stage, the few props in Fedorkos suit-pocket and, in fact, the suit itself every aspect of the play is minimalistic, focusing the attention on the actor. The lights leave Pain only when he enters the audience, which is not altogether an infrequent occurrence.
The play requires quite a bit of audience participation in fact, its cast list features not only Fedorko but the Audience, as played by You.
Thom Pain searches the audience for the winner of a fake raffle, asks for volunteers, even notes that he has the same shirt as someone in the front row. This is unsettling and deeply personal, perhaps meant to forge a deeper-than-normal bond between viewer and character, blurring the line between performance and reality.
Much like the character, however, the play folds in on itself by the end, seeming tired and uninspired. Yet, the audience never fidgeted, nor did its attention waver, and for this all credit is due to Jenkins and Fedorko. In the end, Pain beseeches his audience not to think of him as some smart-mouthed nobody working himself up into a frenzy but rather as someone who was trying.
Try he does. Does Pain succeed? Perhaps not. But Jenkins and Fedorko do.