Photo by Justin D. Gallo Photography
Sam Landman shuffles on stage in the dark and strikes a match – so we can see him and so he can light a cigarette. The match goes out. He strikes another. That one goes out and then he tells us that he really should quit. Time for a story, about a boy and a puddle, a man and a woman, the weather, magic and a raffle.
Is any of this making sense yet? Does life make sense? Landman portrays “Thom Pain,” the solo inhabitant of playwright Will Eno’s 65-minute monologue on nothing. Landman’s “Thom” is amused by his audience, almost slightly embarrassed for keeping us in the theater and away from our lives. He takes nothing seriously with his abashed charm, yet Landman’s comprehensively precise performance should be taken seriously. Eno’s character works at putting together the fractured scenes from his existence – the memories that endure – without parsing meaning or significance. After all, trying to find your way back to the beginning by tracking life’s bread crumbs is crazy difficult.
Landman, directed by Natalie Novacek of Loudmouth Collective, looks like he’s barely working – which means he and Novacek have put in a great deal of work finding the unassuming charm of Eno’s story teller. Eno’s writing makes this more than an acting exercise and Landman’s performance makes the enigma of “Thom Pain” worth spending time with.
(8 p.m. Mon., Thu.-Sun. ends Jan. 20; at Open Eye Figure Theatre, 506 E. 24th St., Mpls.; $15, with Fringe Button discounts. Monday’s performance is two-for-one.

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