By Myra Chanin . . .
The Thin Place is the charmingly chilling play by Lucas Hnath that deals with a provocative issue of mortality: whether there actually is an existence beyond death and, if so, can our dear or dreadful departed communicate with us and let us know the words from them we most long to hear. And, that despite how they treated us, they really loved us and are unbelievably proud of us and should we mistakenly believe that any act of ours caused them pain or death, it ain’t necessarily so, and if it was, they have forgiven us.
Before the curtain opens, the first face we see is that of Boca Stage Co-Founder, Keith Garsson, whose opening remarks, both precise and sardonic, always make me smile. He concludes his promotion of Boca Stage’s coming attractions by reminding all ticket holders to TURN OFF THEIR CELLPHONES COMPLETELY!!!!!! and actually waits to make sure, or even help, some do exactly that.
Garsson is the amazing Director of The Thin Place, and he’s once again worked his magic in attracting other artisans/wizards like Set/Lighting Director Ardean Landuis and Scenic Artist Cindi Blank Taylor, whose combined imaginations have devised a million-dollar enclosure for only dimes on the dollar. In The Thin Place, spookiness is presented through imaginative lighting effects on a stage that’s actually a long, wide hallway, lined with floor-to-ceiling glass windows with parallel aluminum rods. Their orange and purple projections are reminiscent of Halloween-ish rickrack, and easily become even more frightening as time goes on.
Garsson has a consummate knowledge not only of jazz, but also rock and roll. He selects all the while-you-wait-for-the-show-to-begin music. For The Thin Place he’s selected a golden oldie as the curtain riser. It’s “And When I Die,” by Blood, Sweat and Tears, which couldn’t be more appropriate in setting the mood for the apparitions, scary noises, and special effects to come.
Hilda (regular BocaStager Jacqueline Laggy), seated in a contemporary black chair, tells us how her grandmother tried to groom her for many years to glean not only the words, but entire sentences, that Granny was mentally sending her way; which delighted Granny when Hilda sometimes actually received one of her messages . . . or maybe just made a lucky guess. She’s dressed in scruffy denims, like someone who answers telephones for a living, just not the phones of anyone who thinks her efforts are worth big bucks.
Hilda’s friend, Linda (Actors Equity, Silver Palm Award winning and regular Boca Stager Lourelene Snedaker) is a sophisticated, professional psychic—a bit older, more worldly and much better dressed—who takes Hilda under her wing. Early on, Linda reveals the tricks of her trade: successful seances which end with floating voices assuaging the guilt of the self-rejecting souls, alive and still kicking themselves for their past, imperfect behavior. Psst. It doesn’t sound that difficult, in case you’re considering a career change.
Soon, we meet the other half of this curious quartet, There’s Sylvia (Actors Equity, Silver Palm Award winner and BocaStage regular, Kim Estrenko) who plays Linda’s British, beautifully attired, enabler with seductive bosoms that peek out just enough from her dress’s decolletage to warrant notice. Sylvia has money to spare and spares it on Linda. She pays Linda’s rent and extends a money-holding hand when Linda finds herself over-extended.
Finally representing the noisier sex there’s Jerry (Actors Equity, Silver Palm Award winner and Boca Stage regular, Steve Carroll) as a Yankee Wheeler-Dealer, a wonderful hailed and well met fellow who’s born to become an ambassador to some obscure, tottering democracy. Jerry knows the right palms to grease in order to keep Linda’s past transgressions from coming between her and her desired US visa.
Kudos to Costumer Alberto Arroyo, who found the perfect outfits that made each character look exactly like who they were.
From the second row of the theater, I raptly watched the faces and forms of all four of the above, waiting for the second when they, by expression or movement, become their real selves again. It never happened. None of them, by sound or deed, deviated from the roles they played. There were no fakes or faking to be found in these four performers. A more compelling quartet would be hard to find, even on Broadway or London’s West End.
Of course, there’s considerable oogie-boogie and the solution to the question of who’s the actual psychic and who’s the fake. I’ll never tell. You must see these machinations and enjoy their twists and turns for yourself. Everyone in the audience seemed taken by it. Moi aussi. It may not be as profound as “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” but on the plus side, it’s considerably shorter.
A word to anyone in need of tix. Word of mouth has ensured that several performances are totally sold-out. It runs until November 20, playing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings with an 8 PM curtain. Its Sunday matinees at 2 PM are already pretty much gone.
The Thin Place. Through November 20 at Boca Stage at The Sol Theater (3333 N Federal Highway, Boca Raton, Florida). For tickets contact www.bocastage.net or 561-300-6612
Photos: Amy Pasquantonio