'You'll have the chills': Richard Robichaux directs the eerie 'The Thin Place'
Veteran character actor and Texas native Richard Robichaux (who you might remember from Boyhood, Bernie, or the Disney+ series Big Shots) moved back to the Central Texas area about a year and a half ago. Now, he’s solidifying his connection to Austin by taking the director’s chair at ZACH Theatre. “To be asked to direct at the ZACH is sort of like a homecoming for me,” he says. “I mean, it's such an honor.”
Robichaux is helming a new production of the small-cast supernatural play The Thin Place, and he says the nature of the play makes it a unique directorial challenge. “Well, it's an interesting experience as a director,” Robichaux says, “because, you know, usually when you're directing, you're trying to see how do I make the audience most comfortable? And in this play, my job has been the opposite: how do I make the audience the most uncomfortable?
“The Thin Place is almost like a seance in a theater,” Robichaux says. “It's really like a chamber piece kind of play. [It’s] just four actors and it's quiet and then it's loud and then it's bright and then it's dark and it's kind of a funky little seance of a play about mediums.”
One of those four actors is Katerina Pappacostas, who plays Hilda. “Hilda is a woman who grew up with a very close relationship with her grandmother, who passed when she was young. And her grandmother helped cultivate in her an intuition and a relationship to our world and the world possibly beyond,” she says. “And as she sort of seeks to understand that connection, she encounters Linda, who is a medium. And we get to sort of witness both her relationship to that connection that she has and Linda's [own connection], and where they differ and what it means to pursue questions that can't be answered.”
Pappacostas says the play grabs the audience’s attention and focus in a way that not all entertainment does these days. “I think we crave that kind of permission to disappear into experiences and leave the world behind for a little while,” shey says. “And so that's definitely been the overwhelming response – it’s like getting to have a full sensorial experience as an audience member, which is really exciting as an actor to be able to witness and to provide. And we are having that experience, honestly, on stage, especially with this cast and with Richard at the helm. It's been kind of surreal and magical.”
“You'll have the chills," Robichaux says. “I mean, everybody has some feels when they leave it. What we've said is that we want people to leave with more questions than answers, so that you're feeling things in the play and then you can think about them later. We've been watching some audiences and the audiences do clearly get uncomfortable. It's not scary. But it is an event. I mean, it's a theatrical experience that I don't think Austin has seen before.”