This staycation isn’t all films & volunteering, though it certainly is starting to seem that way on Twitter. I took a break for some actual! live! theater, thanks to Goldstar’s half price tickets. I had become a little obsessed with seeing The Thin Place, and decided for once not to let the lack of theater-going company get me down.
It’s a play with one actor, starring Gbenga Akinnagbe (best known to y’all as Chris from “The Wire”) in 11 different roles, and it’s a very Seattle production, being inspired by a piece Dan Savage performed on This American Life*. Several months after that show aired, the Intiman commissioned interviews of Seattle residents by KUOW journalist Marcie Sillman on the question of faith, which playwright Sonya Schneider shaped into the piece. Akinnagbe takes on each of their personas as well as that of Isaac, whose own quest for meaning ties them all together. Interestingly, perhaps, the characters who are sticking with me were both women. It’s possible that’s because they also had some of the stronger senses of place: one was a young Muslim woman on a bus, discussing wearing hijab, and the other was a survivor of the shooting at the Jewish Federation.
I had read a lot of criticism going in, particularly that the script felt like it was still in a workshop stage. I do think this is true, and is perhaps a product of how speedy the turnaround was on the project; the TAL episode aired almost exactly a year before the play opened. On the other hand, the open-endedness of the piece is part of the point: it’s the start of a discussion, and I would be delighted if this was also the start of the Intiman producing more local work.
Certainly all the other aspects of the production were great: set & lighting were striking & minimal, and Akinnagbe’s performance was brilliant. It’s amazing with what clarity and simplicity he moves from character to character. I had figured when I ordered my ticket that it was going to be worth the money just to see him perform, and it definitely was.
There was a discussion session afterwards, and I wish that I could have stayed, particularly as Akinnagbe was speaking as I left. However, I had to get home as I was feeling ill (and, in fact, had felt pretty awful throughout the play, but Akinnagbe was so compelling I was able to forget about it most of the time). It would have been interesting, though, since Seattle is infamously, perhaps, the least-churched city in the country. Which is fine by me. I have a running joke with one of our community partners about attending his church. Recently I said I wouldn’t be there that coming Sunday because I was going to be volunteering for the film festival. He suggested that film wasn’t a religious experience. I argued that it can be if you see the right ones.
…see, it all comes back to film.
* A piece, by the way, very much worth listening to, no matter how you feel about Dan Savage. Moved me to tears when I listened to the podcast on the 49 bus, which was more than a little embarrassing.