A story about Intiman Theatre's world-premiere play, "The Thin Place," starring Gbenga Akinnagbe ('The Wire'), who comments on this drama based on interviews with Seattleites conducted by KUOW arts reporter Marcie Sillman on the topic of religion.
Gbenga Akinnagbe seems a likely star for the world debut Intiman Theatre work “The Thin Place.”
The New York-based actor has stage skills aplenty and won accolades playing a coldblooded hit man, Chris Partlow, on the HBO series “The Wire.” But his family background also may help inform the 11 characters he portrays, in a solo play exploring the nature of religion and spirituality in Seattle.
“My grandmother was a Muslim,” says the Maryland-bred, Nigerian-American Akinnagbe (pronounced BEN-ga ah-KI-na-be).”My mother is Christian. And I don’t know what I am, but I believe in God.”
In “The Thin Place,” Akinnagbe embodies a cross-section of our diverse populace: Men and women. Blacks, whites, Native Americans. Young and old. Atheists, and people of many faiths.
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Ten of the characters are based on actual Seattleites interviewed for the show by KUOW radio arts journalist Marcie Sillman. Director Andrew Russell and local playwright Sonya Schneider wove their stories into a monologistic piece narrated by a fictional figure, Isaac — described by Akinnagbe as “a young man having a crisis of faith. He grew up Pentecostal, and a series of things happened to make him disillusioned with his church. But he wants to re-establish a connection with God.”
Every figure in the show has wrestled with a spiritual crisis, notes Schneider, which constitutes “the unifying force of the piece.”
Russell, Intiman’s new associate producer under new artistic head Kate Whoriskey, says the show grew out of “Kate and I wanting to find a project that would connect the company with real people in the community, and bring their lives onstage.”
A podcast by Seattle writer Dan Savage (“Return to the Scene of the Crime”), on Savage’s own struggles with religious faith, inspired Russell to choose a religious theme.
Russell also was inspired by his perception that Seattle is less a bastion of organized religion than a place where “people feel free to discover their own version of God and spirituality.”
By happenstance, Akinnagbe is in “The Thin Place” (titled after a Celtic expression, about a slender line that separates heaven and earth) while appearing in the recurring role of a pastor on TV’s “The Good Wife.”
The actor, 31, says the two assignments have made him ponder his own beliefs. “To me, it all comes down to an inherent need to believe in something greater than oneself,” he reflects.
“Now and then in this process I’ve thought, there really could be nothing out there. But even if there isn’t a God, I believe in the one we’ve created.”
Misha Berson: email@example.com