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Essay

From the Artistic Director: The Thin Place

By Tim Sanford, Artistic Director
September 18, 2019

Portrait of Tim Sanford by Zack DeZon

 

Human reason, in one sphere of its cognition, is called upon to consider questions, which it cannot decline, as they are presented by its own nature, but which it cannot answer, as they transcend every faculty of the mind.”
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason 

The mind has a mind of its own.”
Linda in The Thin Place 

The paradox of Kantian philosophy rests upon the assertion that human reason is limited by the tools of perception. There exists no argument, founded in reason, that can either prove or disprove metaphysical concepts, such as the existence of God. It seems to me that there is no contemporary writer as steeped in this Kantian paradox as Lucas Hnath. First off, when he portrays characters who believe in “other worlds,” as is the case in The Christians and in The Thin Place, you can rest assured that his aim will not be to debunk these characters; rather, of course he will, but you can also bet that he will subvert the skeptics as well. Lucas’s plays have an amazing ability to hold contradictions together. 

Faith co-exists with disbelief, reason with irrationality, kindness with cruelty. Reason itself does not seem reasonable. And characters who hold such dramatic contradictions within them are bound to be highly unpredictable. Some of his plays exist with seemingly no subtext. Characters come right out with what they want and how they feel. In other plays, such as The Thin Place, characters are much harder to read, both for us and for them. This close-to-the-vest behavior meshes well with the mysterious ambience Lucas fosters in his story-telling. He’s purposely creating a world that might be haunted. 

“We persuade and coerce others and fool ourselves as we try to figure out what we want from each other, how we read each other and what we do about all the secrets we uncover on the way.”

Séances that aimed to contact the dead through a medium were popular throughout the 19th Century. The format most popular with contemporary mediums is looser, more conversational. The implicit purpose of such sittings or “readings” is almost always to bring comfort to the bereft. Trust Lucas to poke around this topic and stir up its unsettling underpinnings. Lucas grew up in Orlando and as a result he said his first dream job was to design rides for Disney World. A good Disney ride surprises, thrills and scares; it seems to summon magic. I think this explains a lot. Most of Lucas’s plays love to take us for a ride. And many of them are also intrigued by performance. I think there are deep questions at the bottom of Lucas’s work, questions that the shifting forms of his plays inevitably illustrate. They are questions about the way we think, the ways we perform our wants for others and for ourselves. We persuade and coerce others and fool ourselves as we try to figure out what we want from each other, how we read each other and what we do about all the secrets we uncover on the way.