Matt Potter 8:03 a.m., June 19
All plays gear toward an audience's experience. But Will Eno's does much more than most. Just about every step is meant to disturb those sitting comfortably in the dark.
The narrator's dressed in a charcoal-gray, unstylish suit. He begins by talking about fear, then being afraid, then of being scared. Usually when an audience hears those words, they refer to what's on stage. Thom Pain aims to instill them into the observers.
He refuses to cohere ("I strike people as a person who just left"). He tells a shaggy-dog story about a young boy (him? nobody? every-person?) but then stops and contradicts himself. He can't seem to get anything right, including his true feelings about magic.
He also poses the questions kids ask in sleeping bags when gazing at the stars: What if you had one day to live? Or that adults ask after that third martini: When did my childhood end?
The script, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is a shape-shifter. It flits from angst to stand-up comedy ("we had an understanding, though neither knew what it was"), to cul-de-sacs of uncompleted thoughts.
Embedded in all this is a sermon that people aren't living enough life. And the over-all thrust is to shake them from complacency, either through disordered sentences or fear tactics. So the narrator encourages audience partcipation, even wanders down the aisles threatening to pick someone at random to go on stage.
The character is a Humpty Dumpty, each shard a different, unconnected person the audience must reassamble as best they can.
I don't think the New Village Arts staging quite understands what the (anti-)play's about. Adam Brick speaks in a monotone - though the lines brim with colors and intentions - and is too unwilling to take the play to the people. He reads his lines with attitude, not conviction. Brick does more acting than being. The performance is too much about the speaker, not near enough about the listeners -and too passive to encourage spectators to overcome their fear of living life fully.