Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

The Thin Place
Chester Theatre Company
Review by Fred Sokol

Also see Fred's recent reviews of La Cage aux Folles and Funny Girl

Diane Prusha and Tara Franklin
Photo by Andrew Greto
Lucas Hnath's The Thin Place, at Chester Theatre Company through June 30, is exceptional during its initial and closing sequences. The middle, however, is distracting and one wishes it weren't quite so long. Throughout, four actors highlight this show with dextrous performance.

Hilda (Tara Franklin) speaks to the audience while house lights are dimmed but not totally down. She loved her grandmother who suggested that, after she (the grandmother) died, maybe her granddaughter could still establish communication with her. Hilda actually hoped her grandmother and she might be able to connect "beyond the grave." Ranging back to her childhood, Hilda explains that she was interested interested in amplified sensory phenomena and hoped for another realm, a thin place. Hilda's mother was dismissive of what she called her daughter's "demonic" ideas. We then learn that the mother just disappeared.

Hilda, as played by Tara Franklin, whose warm presence is undeniably welcoming, becomes acquainted with Linda (Diana Prusha), a medium who is originally from the United Kingdom. The two women are situated on two large, cushy, yellowish chairs on Yichen Zhou's minimalist set. Hilda's monologue has concluded and she sits, as a listener, to sometimes comical, sometimes con-like Linda. Linda evidently gets around, is unafraid to mention that she, as a psychic, and another person who is a psychotherapist might share common ground.

The subject matter swings into the world of the supernatural while the two women remain friendly. Franklin depicts Hilda as the most authentic of individuals while the crackling Linda confesses that what she does might even be called a trick. Hnath's beautifully crafted dialogue is completely credible and the actresses deliver it as if they've been sharing it seamlessly for years. Their timing is precise and the back-and-forth flow is perfectly smooth.

For whatever reason, the playwright brings Jerry (Jordan Bellow) and Sylvia (Tabitha McKown) into the overall picture. If Hnath felt it necessity to amplify and even thereby enrich the play, that's understandable. The newcomers, though, invited to a party, talk on and on and on while doing some drinking. Their presence and the meandering digression annoy and detract from what otherwise is finely tuned, absorbing theatre. Later, Jerry and Sylvia leave the stage and the production once again transforms through provocatively entertaining writing and acting. The overall show is suspenseful and delightfully atypical.

Franklin (who is also co-producing artistic director for the Chester, Massachusetts, based theatre company) is a distinctively talented performer who has taken roles on many New England stages for years. She began to impress even as an MFA student at the University of Connecticut. Her 70-minute one-woman monologue which formed the entirety of On the Exhale at CTC five years ago, was just superb. She begins Thin Place by instantly gaining accessibility and the trust of the audience through her inviting demeanor. Franklin's smile and congenial disposition endear.

Diane Prusha, too, is familiar to New Englanders through her many, many fine appearances with Shakespeare & Company. At its original site, S&Co consistently presented plays or adaptations of fiction in the Edith Wharton Salon. It was a confining drawing room on the second floor of a structure at the Mount. Prusha, frequently cast, was always adept and effective within that tight space. The Thin Place encourages her to enter as an irreverent soul, one who is somewhat bizarre and certainly less than fully dependable or reliable. Hilda would be unwise to fully confide in her since Linda is not a tried-and-true sort. The women make for an unlikely duo.

Director Gabrielle Farrah, who has developed work at Playwrights Horizons, pushes along this 95-minute piece, but it never feels hurried. All of her actors are convincing in their portrayals. The presentation is first class, but the Sylvia/Jerry component is questionable.

The Thin Place runs through June 30, 2024, at Chester Theatre Company, 15 Middlefield Road, Chester MA. For tickets and information, please call 413-354-7771 or visit