Boca Stage kicks off its 2022-23 season with a haunting new play, an evocative drama postulating that death is, in fact, a two-way door, and that everyone who ever lived and died continues to exist in this in-between spiritual dimension.
Playwright Lucas Hnath’s thought-provoking piece about a mysterious middle ground called The Thin Place also proposes that living folks can somehow communicate with spirits in the netherworld, where they dwell.
One could easily perceive that something slightly south of normal is taking place in this Obie Award-winning drama. And while The Thin Place drops mesmerizing tidbits along a seldom traveled path, it comes up short of serving a full meal.
Jacqueline Laggy in The Thin Place playing through Nov. 20 at Boca Stage.
(Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)
The show unfolds through a cadre of four performers. The first is Hilda (Jacqueline Laggy), a young lady with some major family dysfunctions. She and her grandmother used to play a word game designed to help the little girl read her grandma’s mind – now and after her death. When her mother found out, she threw granny out. Both are now gone – at least from this world – but they may be lurking in the next.
Next is Linda (Lourelene Snedeker), a self-purported psychic who commands a dominant role in this drama. She befriends Hilda, even though she apparently has little to offer. But Linda is fascinated with the word game she and her grandmother took part in.
Lourelene Snedeker in The Thin Place playing through Nov. 20 at Boca Stage.
(Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)
Then come Sylvia (Kim Ostrenko) and Jerry (Steve Carroll), a couple of friends who seem to arrive out of nowhere to join Linda and Hilda for one of their cryptic talk sessions.
The show is filled with unusual twists and turns, of things that go bump and telephone calls from people who no longer exist. It’s not a horror tale – there are no chain saws or hockey masks – but the creepy staging, occasional booming sound effects and skewed lighting are good for quite a few edge-of-your-seat moments.
Boca Stage has assembled an exceptional cast of accomplished actors who do their level best to transform Hnath’s words and thoughts into action. This work by the author who also gave us A Doll’s House, Part II; Red Speedo and Dana H., among others, is admittedly complex and a shade difficult to follow. It smacks very much of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, which told us at the start of each episode: “You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.”
Jacqueline Laggy and Steve Carroll in The Thin Place playing through Nov. 20 at Boca Stage. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)
Or, as the play’s director, Boca Stage artistic director Keith Garsson states it: “This play will reward your rapt attention, but even then, you’ll never know quite where it’s going next.”
A vivid imagination might also help, as the audience gets virtually no hints about what’s happening from the show’s physical dynamics, which are sparse. The large, red curtain is pulled back at the start to reveal a woman sitting in a comfortable wing chair. That’s Hilda, the lady who quickly hearkens back to her childhood, the word guessing game with her grandmother and the lousy treatment grandma got from her mother, who claimed to be possessed.
Hilda tells how she befriends Linda, who claims to be a real-life medium with the ability to communicate with the dead – which she demonstrates on stage. With intense acuity and relentless curiosity, Hnath’s play transforms the theater into an intimate séance, creating an unsettling testament to the power of the mind – as alluded to in Mr. Serling’s quote.
The third and fourth members of this quirky quartet show up to broaden the breadth, but not the depth, of the tale. Jerry and Sylvia become eager cocktail party listeners to Linda and Hilda, though their parts are never really defined. They do spin tales of their own, and, at one point, when Sylvia leaves – apparently upset by something that was said – Jerry and Hilda try to converse, but with little success. We do find out that Jerry is Hilda’s cousin and Sylvia is a benefactor who expresses doubt about Linda’s so-called psychic powers.
From left, Jacqueline Laggy, Steve Carroll, Lourelene Snedeker and Kim Ostrenko in The Thin Place playing through Nov. 20 at Boca Stage. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)