Halloween is almost here, and Oregon Contemporary Theatre has a play that’s just right for the season. The Thin Place, according to the script by Lucas Hnath, is a place where life on Earth can connect with the afterlife, or whatever is out there in the great beyond.
If you saw OCT’s powerful production of A Doll’s House, Part Two — Hnath’s fascinating sequel to A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen’s feminist play — you’re probably eager to see any of his plays.
The director, John Schmor, who teaches theater at the University of Oregon, is a master of horror plays. If you were lucky enough years ago to see Or Not To Be, his chilling adaptation of Hamlet, you will remember the gore. His direction of The Thin Place is not at all gory or truly horrific. You won’t have to worry that Freddy Krueger will show up to scare the daylights out of you. This sort of thriller is much more cerebral than that.
The Thin Place, like most of Hnath’s plays, appears simple and direct. The set by Riley Allen consists of two stuffed armchairs and a small table. The two main characters occupy the chairs, and two additional actors must make do mostly by standing, or even sitting on the floor.
This is the home of Linda (Trish DeBaun), a British woman with an indecipherable accent. Not the actor’s fault. The author wrote it that way for no apparent reason. Linda is a psychic, a very good one, but she doesn’t mind revealing some of her common-sense tricks.
The other main character is Hilda, beautifully played by Erica Towe, always enchanting and thoroughly real. Hilda is possibly more talented than Linda in psychic matters. As a small child she played word games with her grandmother, trying to guess words her grandmother attempted to send to Hilda’s mind: words like “trapezoid,” nothing simple. All of the actors are good. Linda is something of a con artist, who might find that she possesses a power that seems to mysteriously come out of nowhere.
Linda is about to gain U.S. citizenship, arranged by her nephew Jerry, played by Cloud Pemble as a slightly slimy wheeler-dealer. He’s interested in Hilda, especially, and we don’t know why.
Linda’s dear friend Sylvia, played by Vanessa Greenway, who played Nora in A Doll’s House, Part 2, is rich and pleasant most of the time, but she and Linda can get into a mean spat at any moment. Sylvia thinks she should spend her money on something other than Linda’s well being. And Jerry tells her that giving to charities can sometimes be worse than not giving.
The Thin Place, toward the end of the 90-minute play, does go into a weird place, with special effects and extreme darkness. This is especially strong because, at the beginning of the play, the lights stay on, allowing the characters to face the audience. Don’t expect The Thin Place to provide answers. There are no answers.