Small Mouth Sounds
Wild Side Productions
Runs until March 24
Theatre Network at the Roxy on Gateway
8529 Gateway Blvd.
Tickets: Call 780-453-2440 or at www.theatrenetwork.ca
Some patrons attending Wild Side Productions’ interpretation of Bess Wohl’s off-Broadway hit, Small Mouth Sounds, were unsure what to expect.
The 100-minute play has about three pages of dialogue making it virtually wordless. But instead of creeping along at a snail’s pace, which can happen when a playwright builds in lengthy unspoken spaces, it is strangely mesmerizing, compelling and absolutely hilarious.
Director Jim Guedo and a top-notch cast of seven actors who work at peak power, tap into our capacity for silence that expresses a multitude of feelings, emotions and moods.
Small Mouth Sounds takes place in a nature setting, complete with birds and mosquitoes. It observes a group of six strangers on a five-day silent retreat, each looking for a balm to heal a personal anguish.
Leading the retreat is an unseen New Age guru, known as Teacher (Nathan Cuckow), who challenges them to confront internal demons and seek peace.
In a moment of enlightenment, Teacher says, “You think you came here to listen to me. Instead you have come here to meet yourself. All you have to do is listen.”
Adding to the vow of silence, he immediately lays down the ground rules: no smoking, no alcohol, no cellphones. No food in bedrooms and clothing is optional at the lake. As humans are prone to do, the sextet immediately breaks the rules.
Assembling for a psychic tune-up is Rodney (Richard Lee Hsi) a well-muscled, rock-star yoga instructor. Not shy about ripping his clothes off, Rodney is an exhibitionist who twists his body into pretzel-like poses for others to admire.
His roommate is Ned, a prickly, anxious man whose world has crumbled. In one of the play’s limited monologues, Ned tells us how his life changed after a rock climbing fall shattered his skull in eight places. Pardon the pun, it was downhill from there.
Former St. Albert Children’s Theatre alumnus Garett Ross tackles the role of Ned, giving this neurotic individual a confused yet deeply compassionate personality that keeps us rooting for him every step of the way.
He develops a quiet attraction to the golden-haired Alicia (Amber Borotsik) whose attendance is a puzzle. She’s constantly tapping out angry texts – if she can find a signal. And to Ned’s disappointment, his attempts to get to know her are quashed when she slips away with Rodney for hot sex.
Joan (Belinda Cornish) and Judy (Kristi Hansen), the play’s only couple, have hit a major bump. Although a committed couple, Judy, we learn, was diagnosed with cancer and the worry is stretching Joan’s compassion to the limit.
In the play’s most tender, heartwarming moment, Judy experiences a moment of genuine kindness from Jan (Dave Horak), a quiet, mysterious man also grieving a loss.
These are all damaged people, yet with limited verbal communication, they reveal their innermost pain and vulnerabilities. Both the characters and actors are exceptionally creative in expressing their points and they listen even harder.
It was a delight to discover how much humour and sadness can be communicated sans dialogue. Just a quiet eye roll, shoulder shrug, a sniff or even a deliberate stare conveyed more than words. Ironically, it was the subtlest of language that spoke the loudest.
Small Mouth Sounds will keep your curiosity racing and the laughter rolling. If you plan on seeing only one play this year, put it on your list. It runs at Theatre Network at the Roxy on Gateway until March 24.