Small Mouth Sounds – Review by Bonnie Goldberg


Being a good listener is an art. We are usually so anxious to contribute our thoughts, that we impatiently interrupt one another. What if we had no words, like monks in a monastery who have taken a vow of silence? Would we use that time to seek enlightenment within, to soul search, to examine our inner beings and try to resolve issues and make changes for the better? Playwright Bess Wohl will give you the opportunity for that reflection as she takes you on a journey with six lost souls seeking answers in her involving “Small Mouth Sounds” at Stage II of Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven until Sunday, September 24.

You are in the woods at a retreat where cell phones, cigarettes and words are forbidden. You are to follow the directions of the teacher/guru (Orville Mendoza) who is ironically experiencing problems of his own. His advice is not always accurate but he is the best model available for achieving a sense of inner peace. You are one of six seekers, three men (Connor Barrett, Ben Beckley and Edward Chin-Lyn) and three women (Brenna Palughi, Socorro Santiago and Cherene Snow) who all have their individual reasons for signing up for five days of silence. Each is unhappy, lonely and in need of soul sustenance.

The projections outside the walls, courtesy of Andrew Schneider, sound like Harvey and Irma and they mimic the interior unrest of the participants. Each has come with a dilemma to solve. Jan has a picture of a child which he guards protectively and since he doesn’t speak English may have an advantage with the rule of non-communication. Ned is like Job, a man who has endured a plethora of problems that would defeat a lesser man. With a well toned body he is proud of displaying, totally, Rodney used yoga as his means of self-communication.

Alicia is unhappy, disorganized, a nibbler and perpetually late and her cell phone, that she should not have, is not allowing her to reach out and touch someone. Joan and Judy are a lesbian couple who are dealing with illness and failure to connect and their long standing partnership is in danger of unraveling. All six are looking for answers and, as the guru instructs, aligning their intentions with actions, whatever that means.

Rachel Chavkin directs this 100 minute search for life’s meaning that is both enlightening and excruciating in its anguished quest. “Small Mouth Sounds” is decidedly different and worthy of your exploration.

For tickets ($34.50-90.50 ), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7p.m.,Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m .and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Look for compassion and healing, commiseration and silent communication as we struggle together and separately to make of our lives a blessing.