Theatre Review: The acting is universally superb in Small Mouth Sounds at PTC
SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS by Bess Wohl is an Obie Award winning play now playing at the Philadelphia Theatre Company at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre. It is a visiting production from Ars Nova and it is directed by Tony Award nominee (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812) Rachel Chavkin. In this instance the pedigree is indicative of the quality of this wonderful play.
Six people, three men and three women come to a pastoral setting to attend a week long silent retreat. All are escaping his or her urban existence in hope of help and healing. Each has his or her own internal demons. As they meander in to their introduction we learn a lot about each retreatant even though no one says a word. They are addressed by a disembodied voice who announces the plan for the week and tells them a parable of two frogs. The audience, who is on a silent retreat of their own in the theater, feel the retreatants confusion as none of the directions make them particularly comfortable.
Each retreatant struggles with communicating his or her problem. Through the process each learns the difficulty of living in silence, but they also learn of its power. When cell phones are removed, they feel the isolation that is foreign to our present society. The beauty of the play is how the characters interact and discover truths and share them with the audience in such an intimate way.
The acting is universally superb. From the beginning each actor mimes out a distinct character with distinct reactions to the other retreatants. Connor Barrett plays Jan, a Finnish pastor who is dealing with the death of a child; Edward Chin-Lyn is Rodney, a yoga teacher who is married to a woman who is also a yoga instructor; Brad Heberlee plays Ned, a man recovering from an incredible string of bad luck. He has the only monologue where he maps out the sordid story to the teacher, Orville Mendoza.
Cherene Snow plays Judy, an editor who has just been diagnosed with cancer. She is there with her partner, Joan a counselor who has trouble dealing with the impending sickness of her love. Brenna Palughi, Alicia rounds out the crew. She is a former teen model who is dealing with no longer being special. She makes noise wherever she goes in contrast with the silence.
Laura Jellinek’s set is as gorgeous as it is functional. It totally captures the right feel. It is complemented nicely by Mike Inwood’s lighting design, Stowe Nelson’s sound design, and Andrew Schneider’s video design. SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS continues until April 1st. For information go to philatheatreco.org or call 215-985-0420