Best Uncomfortable Evening in a Theater

"Provocative" art rarely provokes much of anything with Seattle audiences. Your typical transgendered performance artist slathering their body in foodstuffs gets little more than some polite applause when they visit. That's why THOM PAINE: BASED ON NOTHING, Will Eno's blisteringly funny and dark monologue, was such a surprise, particularly for being staged at the traditionally conservative Seattle Rep. The solo play features a heartbroken and generally inarticulate protagonist, whose interactions with his audience were completely unlike the sort of pandering good humor that we're used to. Seattle audiences are suckers for direct address from a stage—they practically giggle with delight the moment a character turns to look at them. But Eno's character was neither a stand-up comedian nor a dignified narrator. Instead of taking us into his confidence or trying to make us laugh, Paine (local actor Todd Jefferson Moore, in a bravura turn) fell half-asleep onstage, wandered into the house, made advances on a woman in the audience, and most memorably shouted obscenities at patrons who were attempting to flee the show. It was unexpected, invigorating, and out of control, and actually encouraged a level of outrage from its audience that was as thrilling as what was happening onstage.—John Longenbaugh

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