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Playwrights Horizons Extends Lucas Hnath's THE THIN PLACE

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Playwrights Horizons Extends Lucas Hnath's THE THIN PLACEPlaywrights Horizons (Artistic Director Tim Sanford, Managing Director Leslie Marcus) announced a three-week extension of the New York premiere production of Lucas Hnath's The Thin Place, directed by Les Waters. In the burgeoning friendship between two women-one who's recently experienced a strange loss, and another who communicates with the dead-Hnath crafts an unnerving testament to the power of the mind, and one mind's power to influence others.

Hnath has recently been celebrated for two major Broadway productions, A Doll's House, Part 2 and Hillary and Clinton; with The Thin Place, he brings his writing to an eerily intimate scale, returning to Playwrights, where his "mesmerizing drama" (The New York Times) The Christians made its New York premiere in 2015. The Thin Place will now run through January 26 (extended from the initial closing date of January 5) at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Playwrights Horizons (416 W 42nd St).

The production features Randy Danson (Playwrights: Arts and Leisure; Broadway: Wicked, Wonderful Town; Other Off-Broadway: Venus, Love and Information) as Linda, Kelly McAndrew (Playwrights: Men on Boats; Broadway: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Other Off-Broadway: Novenas for a Lost Hospital) as Sylvia, Emily Cass McDonnell (Off-Broadway: The Antipodes, Mercury Fur, Grasses of a Thousand Colors; Film: Ben Is Back, A Master Builder) as Hilda, and Triney Sandoval (Broadway: Marvin's Room, Macbeth, A Free Man of Color, A Man for All Seasons, Frost/Nixon) as Jerry. The creative team includes Mimi Lien (Scenic Designer), Oana Botez (Costume Designer), Mark Barton (Lighting Designer), Christian Frederickson (Sound Designer), and Paul Mills Holmes (Production Stage Manager).

In a New York Times Critic's Pick review, Jesse Green calls The Thin Place "compelling and delicious," a "slyly structured play, directed with thrilling austerity by Les Waters." He describes, "You can never guess, from moment to moment, how the plot will turn... The Thin Place keeps on haunting because it presses against the deepest human longings not only for connection but also for exposure." In New York Magazine, Helen Shaw refers to the play as "a story about storytelling that defies your ability to tell a story about it," noting, "the whole thing is composed from layers of ontological fog...you think you'll forget it soon after you see it, but then it will just crouch there in your forgetting, waiting for your guard to drop." Adam Feldman says in a four-star, Time Out Recommended review, "We emerge, shaken, with a heightened sense of the darkness around us and of how much of the world we fill in for ourselves." David Cote in Observer calls The Thin Place the "welcome return of Hnath... the haunted magician who revels in the uncanny and liminal...staged by the nonpareil Les Waters." Critics have equally celebrated Danson and McDonnell's "cunningly good" (The New York Times) performances-Danson is "hypnotic" (New York Magazine) and "entrancing" (TheaterMania) as Linda, while McDonnell assumes a "wonderfully prim manner" (New York Magazine) and "precise oddity" (Time Out), in a performance that "rivets us" and "achieves the miracle of conveying the temperature of her thoughts without saying a word" (The Wrap). WNYC calls the production a "a delightful piece of theater magic."

The Thin Place is the story of two women, Hilda and Linda. Linda communicates, professionally, with the dead, who are still here, just in a different part of here, in The Thin Place. She can make those who believe hear them, offering them peace and closure and meaning. Originally from rural England, she's reestablished herself in the U.S.-birthplace of spiritualism-where she has continued to build a career out of her gift. Hilda, a keen listener and observer who's grappling with loss, takes a great interest in Linda's abilities. She befriends the veteran medium, seeking answers that lie across the fragile boundary between our world and the other one.

Hnath's play bristles with disquieting suggestion, probing the most timeless questions about reality, the impressionability of the mind, and the omnipresence of death as we float through life. Ever gifted at taking the pulse of the world around him, Hnath matches these universals with a timely resonance, distilling collective feelings of national chaos-and our political and spiritual vulnerabilities therein-to a chillingly personal scale.

The Thin Place began only as a name-brought up in a conversation between Lucas Hnath and Les Waters (former Artistic Director of The Actors Theatre of Louisville; Playwrights: The Christians; Broadway: In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)), when Waters and Hnath were workshopping another of Hnath's plays. Waters referred to a moment of that play as existing in a "thin place," and when Hnath asked him to explain, he said, "The place where the line between this world and some other world is very thin." In the town where Waters grew up, he recalled, there were several thin places. Hnath wrote it down as a title for a play that did not yet exist, with the intention-for when whatever it was came into being-of having Waters direct it.

"While Les is able to more easily make room for mystery, I'm more obsessively analytical," says Hnath. "So very intentionally I tried to make this material come from the unconscious mind. I wanted to write something that would scare me-but I don't know that I can do that while I'm fully in my analytical mode. A monster does not scare me, but psychology, mind control, possession stories-those uncanny spaces that tie the most obviously into spiritualism-do. I had to work myself into a state of fear and deep anxiety to find my way into this play."

Waters adds, "Lucas and I both have a real interest in minimalism-in, say, using as little as theatrically possible to create an emotional effect, whether that's uncertainty or fear. How do audience members participate in conjuring that environment?"

Commissioned by The Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Thin Place made its world premiere at the Humana Festival.

The Thin Place runs through January 26, 2020 (extended from the initial closing date of January 5). For a full schedule of performances, please visit phnyc.org.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Broski

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