Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 28, 2024

REVIEW: Chester Theatre Company, “The Thin Place”

Chester Theatre Company, Chester, MA
through June 30, 2024
by C. L. Blacke

Photo by Andrew Greto
Chester Theatre Company’s 2024 season opener, “The Thin Place,”, written by Obie Award winner Lucas Hnath, weaves a complex tapestry of psychological and supernatural elements. The minimalist stage design—a stark setting of two chairs, small table, and a single red light bulb against black walls—creates an intimate atmosphere ripe for the unfolding of a ghost story that blurs the line between reality and illusion.

Immediately breaking the fourth wall, Hilda, embodied by Tara Franklin with a childlike naivety and openness to belief, holds a haunting conversation with the audience about the bond she once held with her grandmother. Their relationship had been marked by an attempt at psychic communication that was met with disapproval and labeled as “demonic” by Hilda’s mother. Soon after, tragedy befell the grandmother (who remains nameless throughout) and a sudden mystery surrounding Hilda’s mother adds another layer of intrigue and unanswered questions.

As Hilda grapples with familial loss, she explains how she found solace in Linda, the cheeky (and foul-mouthed) medium to the thin place, portrayed by Diane Prusha. Linda becomes a friend and a replacement for the maternal figures Hilda has lost and offers comfort through supposed communications with the deceased grandmother. 

The story itself is told in a retrospective style with little action happening in the present time. Instead, characters come to life to deliver their dialogue at the appropriate intervals. And though the greater part of the play unfolds slowly, “The Thin Place” intensifies as conflicts arise during a dinner party. Linda and friends Sylvia and Jerry (played by Equity actors Syliva McKown and Jordan Bellow, respectively) argue about the morality of telling lies vs. the truth.

Director Gabrielle Farrah, former Directing Fellow at Playwrights Horizons and Producing Fellow at Clubbed Thumb, employs a splattering of classic horror conventions as the play progresses that heightens the suspense. Likewise, technical elements, such as disturbing lighting techniques and jarring sound effects, are also used to strike sudden bouts of fear.

The climax more than fulfills the play’s initial promise of a chilling atmosphere, and a feeling of unease sticks with the audience long after they have clutched the edge of their seats for the last time.