Review: THE THIN PLACE at Atwater Village Theatre

The show spooks Atwater through April 24

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Tony-nominated playwright Lucas Hnath's THE THIN PLACE is an eerie meditation on grief, regret and the need for closure, though it is undermined by the lack of a satisfying conclusion.

Twentysomething Hilda (Caitlin Zambito) is a lost soul who seeks the "thin place" between this life and whatever comes next. Before she passed, her grandmother tried to train her to intuit words the woman was thinking to prep her for her eventual death and a means of communication then. Since that passage, Hilda's been seeking her guidance. And then she meets Linda (Janet Greaves), an older English woman who dazzles her with psychic parlor tricks and who is clearly a surrogate grandmother. As their friendship - and mentee/mentorship - grows, however, their relationship starts to fracture.

Norm Lewis, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Skylar Astin Join Sondheim Celebration At Hollywood Bowl
Janet Greaves

The connection between the two women is effortlessly brought to life by the actors. Zambito and Greaves are phenomenal, like they were born to the roles. And with minimal sets and only two other actors, there's not a lot to distract from them. Which is not to say that Corbett Tuck (as Sylvia, a benefactress of sorts to Linda) and Justin Huen (presumably Sylvia's partner) don't hold their own during a lengthy and explosive dinner party scene.

Obie Award- and Outer Critics Circle Award-winning Hnath ("Red Speedo"; "A Doll's House, Part 2") carefully delineates each character with precise brushstrokes, and director Abigail Deser allows her performers to breathe into the spaces Hnath leaves. The only drawback is that the ending doesn't land. There's no sense of closure for any of the characters and while that may be the point - that there aren't necessarily answers we can find about the other side - it still leaves one with a sense of dissatisfaction. It needn't be tied up in a bow, but it would be beneficial to have a sense of an actual ending.

Norm Lewis, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Skylar Astin Join Sondheim Celebration At Hollywood Bowl
Janet Greaves and Caitlin Zambito

The costumes by Dianne K. Graebner are stunning and clearly of the highest quality. The set design by Penni Auster, Abigail Deser, and Amanda Knehans consists of two high-end armchairs and a beautiful bar allowing much space for the actors to maneuver in. And while some may be put off by the stage separating the audience in half, so the action takes place in between, I found it added an immediacy, like we were other guests at the dinner party, and when Hilda addresses us, unspooling her history, it felt like she was confiding in us, maybe each of us, maybe just us. The sound by Alysha Grace Bermudez is minimal yet mesmerizing, not drawing attention to itself. The low-key effect of an abandoned house is realistic and powerful. The lighting design by Matt Richter adds a warm texture to the chilly proceedings.

The Echo Theater Company has a consistent track record of staging solid productions of challenging material. While this may not rank among its best, there is a lot to commend and it is a journey worth taking to the Thin Place, or at least up to the border of what is known and what is not.

THE THIN PLACE spooks the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90039, through April 24. Tickets are available by calling (310) 307-3753 or going to

All photos by OddDog Pictures


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