I have just seen some of the funniest stage business that I’ve seen in about a year. And some touching character reveals that I didn’t see coming, despite thinking at the start that I recognized all these characters because I had been in yoga classes or support groups or retreats with all of them.
Wildside Productions’ Small Mouth Sounds, written by Beth Wohl and directed and designed by Jim Guedo, is playing at the Roxy on Gateway until March 24th. I loved not knowing much at all about what to expect, and figuring out as it went along who all these characters were and why they were at the retreat. I don’t want to give away any of the good bits, so you can have a similar experience.
It’s about six people who show up for a five-day silent retreat, and the retreat leader (Nathan Cuckow). There is something marvelously uncomfortable and exposed about the set, especially in the harsh cold pre-show lighting – not at all like the cozy safe nest of Star of the North Retreat Centre where I attended a silent yoga day last year. Audience seating is a bit farther back and higher up than it usually is at Roxy on Gateway, adding to the sense of distance. There is an early scene which ends with each character rolling up their yoga mat – I realized that each of them was doing it in a way that showed who the character was and what their frame of mind was. The other characters were played by Amber Borotsik, Belinda Cornish, Kristi Hansen, Richard Lee Hsi, David Horak, and Garrett Ross.
There is very little spoken dialogue in the narrative. What there is, matters. Most of the characters try to keep the discipline of silence, but fail or abandon it when it is important – just enough to give emphasis or provide a little bit more explanation to the audience. I wondered ahead of time if the silence would feel gimmicky, but it really didn’t – it fit naturally with the context, and gave lots of opportunity for wordless communication of everything from pain to disdain.
I liked it a lot.