The Review: Playwrights Horizons’ The Thin Place
A compelling tight-voiced woman leads us down the pathway to The Thin Place at Playwrights Horizons, with a whole-hearted belief that simple story-telling expertly done and laid out works paranormal wonders. Amazingly, this couldn’t be more on point, as we eagerly tune into the woman quietly sitting in an arm chair using her odd ghost story skills to pull us in with an ease that is exhilarating. Hilda, dynamically portrayed by an impressive Emily Cass McDonnell (Signature’s The Antipodes) utilizes all that is unique and subtle to weave a story that is both dynamic and intriguing. Teasing the drama forward spectacularly, the scare tactics work, mainly because of the deep emotional connection that tugs within, while also scratching at us with tense chills and dread. Playwright Lucas Hnath, the superb writer of Hillary and Clinton, Red Speedo, A Doll’s House, Part 2, deviously lays down the flavorful bread crumbs to lure us deep into the dark and scary forest of Hilde’s past relationships. They compel us forward, inch by inch, crumb by crumb, into an electric place somewhere between this world and the other, keeping us on our toes and completely engrossed from start to finish.
“All you have to do is listen“, “really listen“, she pleads, and we must confess that there is no way we cannot, mainly because of the dark intensity that Hnath has procured with each step. It’s a scary ghost story, with a deeply complex listening creature in the forefront vibrating with an unknown energy that intrigues. One by one, she introduces us to those that she comes into contact in her desperate attempt to connect beyond the present and the living. Linda, fascinatingly portrayed by the clever Randy Danson (PH’s Arts and Leisure), is the first to open the door that leads to Hilda’s dearly departed grandmother. She’s the medium who thinks of herself as more of a trick psychotherapist, but one that can deliver immediate positive results. She produces something akin to “dinner and a show“, but the details are too close to Hilde’s home to take it on as slightly as Linda suggests. Their dance and friendship is awkward and compelling. We don’t quite get it, but we also can see Hilde’s desperation leading the way, giving us ample reason to be confused but completely intrigued.
The two sit armchair beside armchair, weaving stories to and about themselves and the other on the most simple set designed with clarity and vision by Mimi Lien (Soho Rep./TFANA’s Fairview). The lighting by Mark Barton (LCT’s Admissions) casts us down into the spooky depths while also illuminating the present and the real with sharp clarity, alongside the smart costuming by Oana Botez (Riverside Church Theater’s Phoenician Women), and eerily jarring sound design by Christian Frederickson (PH’s This Flat Earth). The cast and crew trust in their ability to keep us leaning in and staying attuned, and boy, do we ever. Even when the two others; Jerry, portrayed by Triney Sandoval (Broadway’s Bernhardt/Hamlet) and elegant sugar mother Sylvia, beautifully presented by Kelly McAndrew (Rattlestick’s Novenas…), expand the horizon. They bring the questions, ideals, and moralities in and around Linda’s profession and debate the guilt of getting all you want at the expense of others, or giving it away to help if you can and so desire.
The drive through Hilde’s past stories and present day phone glitches lead us back home, via a spontaneous detour into the darkness of the past, taking us to the heart of the monster matter and the ghost-like apparition that awaits to be heard. We strain to know what’s happening, as we sit on the edge with tense fear marked with inquisitive eagerness. “That’s your warning“, they say about wanting to know more about those souls that have died, or just gone missing. The Thin Place is heavy and thick with connectivity to the other side, and in it, there is theatrical bliss and revelation.