Review: Michael C. Hall Probes the Despair of ‘Thom Pain’

Review: Michael C. Hall Probes the Despair of ‘Thom Pain’


It is not enough, of course. The show proceeds as a sustained, cryptic, circular apologia pro vita sua, in which childhood tragedies and grown-up losses in love are anatomized like corpses in a forensic lab. That confession is sometimes told in the third person, sometimes in the first.

But there’s no question that it’s always all about Thom — unless you believe, as he likes to insist teasingly, it’s all about us, too, and our bewildered, desperate and ever-shrinking time on this planet.

Mr. Hall has established himself an accomplished and adventurous actor, both on screen (“Six Feet Under,” “Dexter”) and stage (brilliant as David Bowie’s alien alter-ego in “Lazarus,” and on Broadway in “The Realistic Joneses.”). Yet his Thom is self-conscious in the wrong ways.

His narrative of self-catechism and self-laceration has the carefully modulated quality of a classically trained actor doing an intense audition piece. Mr. Hall is best in relaxed moments of semi-improvised interaction with the audience. But this Thom is seldom lovably loathsome enough to make us squirm.

Thus delivered, the script now registers as the product of a restless and very talented young dramatist, showing off and playing with the influences he has absorbed. The ghost of Beckett still hovers, but so do, just as visibly, the specters of T. S. Eliot, Edward Albee and Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man.

It’s Mr. Eno’s love for and grasp of rhythmic language that most impress here. Listen, for instance, to Thom’s trying to remember what might have inspired a young boy’s wet dream: “Some fuzzy uneducated image of a girl, saying a word he liked. ‘Voucher.’ Or, ‘Ankles.’”

Thom’s angst may feel a trifle sophomoric now, like something he might grow out of. But his way with words, and that of the man who created him, is already deliciously ripe.


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