Small Mouth Sounds: Theater review by Jenna Scherer
Though it employs very little dialogue, there’s nothing quiet about Small Mouth Sounds. Bess Wohl’s luminous new play uses silence to dig into the core of human pain, which, like everything unendurable, can also be very funny. Set over the course of a New Agey upstate retreat, the play follows six city dwellers who are each locked up inside their own private misery. It’s a silent retreat, which makes communication at once much easier and much harder than it would be if words were allowed.
Director Rachel Chavkin, who’s demonstrated her flair for excess and romance in the wonderful Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, proves that she’s every bit as up to the task of minimalist realism with this minutely realized production. The devil is in the details, and the excellent ensemble speaks volumes with a long look or the frantic unwrapping of a hard candy. The play asks—and admirably never quite answers—deep questions about how we connect with other people, a feat that the characters achieve through channels both profound and silly. Wohl isn’t afraid to let the ridiculous rub up against the sublime, and it makes Small Mouth Sounds as entertaining as it is transcendent.—Jenna Scherer
Ars Nova (see Off Broadway). By Bess Wohl. Directed by Rachel Chavkin. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 40mins. No intermission.