This show is about everything and nothing. It’s been described as a rambling monologue, a think piece, a string of funny anecdotes, an existential exercise, and a Samuel Beckett-sized classic. Thom gives a lecture that touches on childhood pain and adult longing and abandonment. “It’s about a man who’s going to help us as he explores his own meaning,” says College of Charleston Theatre Professor Todd McNerney. Pain is played by George Metropolis, a gifted student who played the lead in the college’s recent version of The Seagull.
It’s intimate. The one-man format and clever writing allow Pain to build a strong connection with his audience. According to McNerney, it taps into “the nature of what makes a theatrical event unique.” Pain steps out of the darkness and talks about it with the crowd before launching into an equally dark and sorrowful story. Although he’s ostensibly a professor giving a lecture, there are none of the tedious trappings of an academic talk. “There’s no significant set,” says McNerney, “no accoutrements of a lecture. It’s all about the actor and this audience at this moment.” Metropolis’ goal is to make the audience feel like Pain, to create the strong bond that every good actor strives for.
All the critics love it. An Off-Broadway run got great reviews and the play was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2009. That’s quite a feat considering that the point of this show is pointlessness — Pain warns us to be ready for life’s disappointments and non-events. His invitation to examine our own disillusionment should make this an uneasy but electrifying experience.