Small Mouth Sounds
Wild Side Productions
March 12 to 24
At the Roxy on Gateway
8529 Gateway Blvd.
Tickets: Call 780-453-2440 or at www.theatrenetwork.ca
It’s pretty rare a respected director mounts a full length production with only three or four pages of dialogue.
But that’s exactly what director Jim Guedo of Wild Side Productions plans with American playwright Bess Wohl’s Small Mouth Sounds.
Slated to officially open Thursday, March 14, at the Roxy on Gateway, Small Mouth Sounds takes us to a five-day retreat in upstate New York in a forested area.
It is a silent, spiritual retreat where six individuals in deep pain are trying to get in touch with their personal problems.
Leading the group is a guru/teacher (Nathan Cuckow), also living through his own existential crisis. Unlike the retreat’s paid participants, he speaks and leads them through their journey.
“It can be a challenge for the actors who use text and the spoken word to convey dialogue. But I love the idea where the story is done in forced silence. There’s an energy. There’s a tension. It’s fascinating to watch the actors build their characters from the playwright’s blueprint,” said Guedo.
Dialogue and the use of voice are an actor’s main tools. To pull the play off, Guedo needed strong actors capable of sustaining roles without speech for a 90-minute run.
Amber Borotsik is Alicia, “a woman in a downward spiral. She’s a mess, an open nerve end.” Then there’s Belinda Cornish (Joan) and Kristi Hansen (Judy), a lesbian couple with a long shared history who need to iron out issues.
Dave Horak takes on the role of Jan, “a man who feels like a blank slate until the last three minutes of the show.” Then there’s Richard Lee Hsi as Rodney, a celebrity yoga instructor, who is well-versed in attending these gatherings. This time he arrives with his own baggage.
And finally there’s St. Albert Children’s Theatre alumnus Garett Ross, a man who has everything horrible that can happen to a man dropped in his lap.
During rehearsal the cast explored the role silence plays in our lives. During rehearsal breaks Guedo noticed an odd anomaly.
“Normally when people go on breaks, they’re Chatty Cathys. Here when people are on break, they’re very quiet. That all comes from being silent so long during rehearsal. Sometimes we speak to fill a void. Part of the retreat is coming in touch with that.”
Part of the beauty of the comedy, he notes, is that Wohl attended several retreats.
“She didn’t intend to write about retreats. The idea from the play came from the retreats. We even have one of her brochures in the props.”
For Guedo, the beauty of this play is the characters’ humanity.
“They question if they’re on the right path. Ultimately, it’s a beautiful, uplifting play. It’s not a Hollywood cliché where everyone leaves happily. It’s the attempt that is important. And ultimately, it’s funny.”