You’ll have to forgive Brandon J. Simmons for not telling you more about the play he’s directing.
Some basic facts are on the table: It’s called “The Thin Place,” it opens at ACT Theatre on March 23, with previews beginning March 18, and there are ghosts.
Simmons calls the play “uncanny” and “slippery” and “delicate.” He does not mention much about the plot.
“Of course, we want to talk to people and be like, ‘Hey, this is an amazing play. Come see it. And also, you don’t really know what you’re about to come see,’ ” Simmons said.
Some of this evasiveness is spoiler sensitivity, but some of it is more fundamental: It’s not that easy to describe what happens.
“The Thin Place” is written by Lucas Hnath, whose cerebral and formally adventurous plays include a sequel to Ibsen (“A Doll’s House, Part 2”), an alternate-universe examination of a Hillary Clinton presidential run (“Hillary and Clinton”) and his most recent Broadway foray, “Dana H.,” in which an actor lip-syncs to a recording of Hnath’s mother telling the story of her own kidnapping.
Hnath dedicates “The Thin Place,” which premiered off-Broadway in 2019, to the memory of sleight-of-hand master Ricky Jay, which should give some sense of his intentions here.
“It’s a play that really wants to play with the audience’s expectations, so the tone that gets established is really delicate, and maybe even a little misleading,” Simmons said. “Doing that is tricky, because it’s very easy to go too far. Every day we come into rehearsal, we test it out. [Sometimes], we’re like, “Ah, too much, too much, let’s dial it back. Or let’s pump it up just a little bit.’ It’s all about that very minute, specific little work.”
“The Thin Place” begins with a conversation between Hilda (Abigail Boucher) and Linda (Julie Briskman). Hilda is trying to get in touch with her late grandmother, who used to practice communicating with her telepathically when she was a little girl, opening “a thin place” where the divide between this world and another dissipated.
As a medium, Linda says she can help reconnect them: “What I do is like a radio antennae. I tune my dial, then all these voices start comin’ at me.”
For Briskman, Linda is unlike any character she’s played before. There’s a simplicity and a matter-of-factness to her that belies the supernatural qualities of her work, she said.
But is Linda telling the truth? And for that matter, is Hilda?
“One of the first things Brandon said to me was, ‘Everything she says is true. From her point of view,’ ” Briskman said. “And that’s true for everybody in the play. So, if I start from there, I won’t tip my hand [because] there’s no hand to be tipped.”
Two additional characters, played by Ray Gonzalez and Alexandra Tavares, are present to ponder and complicate the mysteries. More details about their involvement are not readily forthcoming.
“A lot of things are going to happen within the course of the evening that you won’t expect,” Briskman said.
With its nebulous mood, “The Thin Place” is a play that embodies its title, Simmons said. The more you try to wrap your fingers around it, the more it eludes you. And yet, it also has moments that are likely to evoke collective gasps.
“I read it and it just gave me such a tingle, such a spark. It was like a little shiver,” Simmons said. “It’s kind of a ghost story, but it just peeks around the corner at a little horror; it peeks around the corner at a thriller.”
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