After a hit run at Ars Nova, Bess Wohl's (mostly) wordless dramedy about six urbanites at a silent retreat transfers Off Broadway. Directed by Obie winner Rachel Chavkin. More…
In the overwhelming quiet of the woods, six runaways from city life embark on a silent retreat. As these strangers confront internal demons both profound and absurd, their vows of silence collide with the achingly human need to connect. Filled with awkward humor, this strange and compassionate play asks how we address life’s biggest questions when words fail us.
"Mere words cannot express the depth and beauty that abounds in Bess Wohl’s transcendent 'Small Mouth Sounds'...In spite of the serious sounding synopsis, it is incredibly amusing...Hit maker Rachel Chavkin has succeeded in giving her ultra-talented cast enough leeway to fully explore every nuance through Wohl’s well-written characters...I can’t imagine that a better theater piece will emerge in 2016." Full Review
"These actors are expert at wordless interaction and there is so much humor and so much pain in this play, it's amazing to think that most of it was performed in silence...'Small Mouth Sounds' is unlike anything I've ever seen before and I was so taken with it. I loved the audacity of it and I thought the acting was the finest I've seen, across the board, in a long time." Full Review
"Wohl's play is hilarious, made even more so by top-notch physical performances from the cast. The retreat is a silent one, so most of the story is told outside of the dialogue...'Small Mouth Sounds' is an excellent, perhaps even enlightening, evening of theater. Wohl is not satisfied to merely present a satire of spiritual capitalism: All of her characters are real and their problems are genuine. The different ways they cope with those problems also feels authentic." Full Review
"Wohl’s play about six characters who are attending a silent retreat contains almost no dialogue, but it speaks volumes. It is a satire, but it treats its subject with respect. It is a comedy, but it slowly reveals each individual’s tragedy. In the hands of Chavkin and its exquisite seven-member cast 'Small Mouth Sounds' is a remarkable work of theater." Full Review
"'Small Mouth Sounds' is a terrific new play in a beautiful production that deserves to be seen on its own merits...Six mostly incompatible people show up for a five-day retreat...The retreat is meant to be silent and, for the most part, the participants comply...All of these nonverbal clues combine, in Chavkin’s incredibly confident orchestration, to form a profoundly entertaining and quasi-musical portrait of people living under great pressure...Everything pulls you in." Full Review
"A quiet gem of a play that has been restaged with all its wit, compassion and sparkle fully intact. The sound of silence onstage has rarely made such sweet music…Ms. Wohl’s ingenuity and the sympathetic direction of Rachel Chavkin allow us to read the bleeding hearts of the characters with a lucidity that no amount of dialogue could improve upon…It’s heartening to renew acquaintance with a play that leaves you moved, refreshed and, yes, maybe even a little enlightened." Full Review
“‘Small Mouth Sounds’ is an unusual evening in the theater. Not only does it oblige us to listen in a way we usually don’t during a play, it also asks us to consider our own state of mental and emotional health as we watch six people attempt to come to terms – or not – with their life situations. Max Baker, Babak Tafti, Brad Herberlee, Marcia DeBonis, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Jojo Gonzalez, and Zoë Winters give perceptive performances without having words to reveal who they are.” Full Review
"Silence is golden in Bess Wohl’s exquisite play...The sight of deeply unhappy people trapped in a series of embarrassing situations makes 'Small Mouth Sounds' one of the funnier sad plays you’re likely to see...This is a smashing cast, all navigating tonal and emotional shifts with passion and aplomb. Chavkin’s beautifully direct and transparent staging covers a remarkable range of pain, joy and hope in 100 deeply engrossing minutes." Full Review
"One of the unexpected theatrical joys of the spring of 2015 was Bess Wohl’s 'Small Mouth Sounds'...The various interactions are perhaps more aggressive than soothing, but that is the playwright’s point. What makes the play remarkable is that so much of this is expressed without words, or with minimal dialogue...'Small Mouth Sounds' is a play unlike any other, yes; but Wohl and Chavkin bring you right into the drama, and it makes an engrossing and pretty much delightful evening of theatre." Full Review
"Six people in varying degrees of turmoil have gathered for a five-day experience that will help them re-create themselves, presumably for the better...That double sense of existence as a mix of comedy and tragedy permeates the evening, as the characters tentatively begin to interact emotionally, communicating without speech...They've been able to give one another the small, passing gifts of comfort and understanding. 'Small Mouth Sounds' is a lovely gift of its own." Full Review
"Small Mouth Sounds' manages the extraordinary feat of both reducing human communication to its essentials, and exploding the range of emotion, depth and subtext possible when the need to break through barriers perforce becomes primal. Rachel Chavkin has the extraordinary cast directed on a runway stage configuration, so effectively that you too feel a part of the grand experiment. This play should have a long shelf life." Full Review
"An astounding play...The phenomenal cast build their characters and articulate their performances with carefully calibrated facial modulations, body language, and movement, helped by calculated details in their costumes and props…'Small Mouth Sounds' walks a razor’s edge between parody and profundity. Part of the play’s impressive cleverness is that it knows the members of the audience are on their own silent retreat,..'Small Mouth Sounds' is funny as hell." Full Review
“A quirkily comic and simultaneously dramatically affecting work, it’s come to its full potential thanks to the protean talents of its seven-person cast, and especially the inventive direction of Rachel Chavkin, the current 'It Girl' of theater who consistently takes superior material and raises it to the next...There are moments when this 100-minute work feels as if it’s worn out its welcome, but when the lasts scene is played, you’ll feel small for having wanted the show to end.” Full Review
"The actors so ably embody their characters through their postures, their sideways glances, and their movements that when they do finally speak those moments come as a surprise and feel gratifying…In a play so focused on sounds and silence, it's fitting, then, that the sound design is remarkably done…Overall, the play acts as a realistic snapshot of six lives…Every bit reveals them just enough for us to empathize with whatever of us we see in their pain and joy and misfortune." Full Review
"Wohl's clever conceit and Chavkin's inventive and smartly focused direction are in place...Moving this production from a small off-the beaten path locale to a larger, more high-profile location probably accounts for Wohl's striking originality at times feeling a bit gimmicky...Thanks to Wohl's vivid voice and the way the actors make silence as dramatically potent as dialogue, 'Small Mouth Sounds' is a truly unique and entertaining experimental theater experience." Full Review
"Wohl has a great time with the idea that these disparate people must co-exist without speaking, and the inventive director Rachel Chavkin conducts the proceedings with precision and sensitivity worthy of a Böhm or Maazel...Wohl can’t resist cheating on occasion, when someone or other simply has to speak...And I was disappointed that the heard but unseen guru is a standard-issue charlatan...Nevertheless, the ensemble is spectacular and the 100 minutes fly by." Full Review
“There is a surprising amount of humor, sparked by the smallest actions and expressions, and plenty of tears...The play, nicely directed by Rachel Chavkin, is a bit too long and seems to spend the last fifteen minutes in search of an ending. The bottom line turns out to be not much more than 'you are not alone.' Still, the pivotal issue is feeling disconnected in these strange and fast times. And who doesn’t?” Full Review
"Sweet and diverting, if not as deft or probing as it seems to want to be. Still, it's fun and very well-performed…I didn't fall completely in love with the play, the overarching narrative of which sometimes felt a little too easy in some places, and a little forced in others…As an extended acting exercise that has been placed in the hands of a very good ensemble, 'Small Mouth Sounds' is better than good. I'm just not sure that the characters' stories fully add up to the sum of their parts." Full Review
"At its best, 'Small Mouth Sounds' contrives sublime moments of Chaplinesque comedy from this clash between Nirvana and reality...Wohl also wittily conveys how the smartphone has put a definitive end to peace and quiet even in the remotest places. But her play ultimately lacks dramatic variety and, under Chavkin’s direction, the action drags at times...After about an hour of this, you may nonetheless find yourself feeling a bit low on mindfulness." Full Review
“While watching the show, I had a wonderful time; beautifully directed by Rachel Chavkin, it is an enticing theatrical experience, I laughed heartily and it was entertaining, but the moment the show was over, I realized that every single laugh was at someone’s expense and usually at their misery. I was upset that I laughed mindlessly at their pain…’Small Mouth Sounds’ is like a one-night stand; at the time you think it’s great, but the moment it’s over, you feel cheap and ashamed.” Full Review
"Both hilarious and heartbreaking...Chavkin specializes in visceral theater that refuses to be constrained by the proscenium...Chavkin is just as deft and specific with her actors...They are all terrific...The pleasure for the audience is in putting all the pieces together. Some click into place easily; others are more satisfyingly jagged. At almost two hours without intermission, 'Small Mouth Sounds' is a bit long but it's also nirvana for smart theatergoers." Full Review
for a previous production "'Small Mouth Sounds' feels like a holiday outing, a minimalist piece of experimental theater that casts the audience as voyeurs in an entertaining adventure that gradually darkens into tragedy...Chavkin’s direction is so supple and the ensemble work so subtle, it’s hard to say exactly when the shift happens — the silent, earth-moving switch from comedy to tragedy that makes this strange little play so moving. But when it does happen, it’s shattering." Full Review
for a previous production "Wohl has a talent for bringing American subcultures to the stage and making them immediately relatable. With 'Small Mouth Sounds', she's created a brilliant satire of commercial spiritualism...Under the steady and sensitive direction of Rachel Chavkin, every member of the ensemble delivers a clear and specific performance using only body language and the occasional whispered word (or small mouth sound)." Full Review
for a previous production "Action generally speaks louder than words — but silence says even more in 'Small Mouth Sounds', Bess Wohl’s wonderful, perceptive new play...It’s amazing how much we learn about our campers as we watch them silently go about their days and nights...Under the precise, empathetic direction of Rachel Chavkin, the actors brilliantly uncover the characters’ quirks and foibles." Full Review
for a previous production "As funny as it is, uh, quietly moving, Wohl’s play is also a model of ingenuity...Both the humor and the pathos spring mostly from wordless interaction, which is testimony to Wohl’s intrepid writing, to the superb acting and to the precise work of Chavkin...The play leaves behind its own warming afterglow. You may not emerge wanting to spend a week with your mouth shut, but Wohl’s play makes a wonderful case for how eloquently silence can speak." Full Review
See it if you enjoy being a fly on the wall, laughing out loud, seeing an attractive man naked, & having your emotions tugged as you understand others
Don't see it if if you only like traditional plot-driven plays. This one peels away the layers of 6 strangers who come together for soul searching. A+.
See it if you are interested in seeing a wonderful written and acted play that deals with life themes in a new and relevant way. Funny & deeply moving
Don't see it if you don't like plays or need a lot of talking to be interested.
See it if you like life stories, thinking about what your'e seeing/feeling and like to laugh and cry
Don't see it if you're offended by nudity, need lots of action and/or don'l like an emotional challenge
See it if you want to hear but mostly see humans connect who are in pain and hurting in this intriguing play set in a silent retreat. Transcendent.
Don't see it if you don't like a unique dramatic experience with lots of silence where words fail us but verbal cues express everything.
See it if You want to see a show reflecting very genuine human experiences of people in the world today. You'll laugh you'll cry you'll self-reflect.
Don't see it if You're not a fan of minimal dialogue. This show requires full attention to detail.
See it if You love innovative, creative, out-the-box theatre. So clever. So engaging. Great cast. Staging and audience set-up rocked! Love! Love! Love
Don't see it if You're opposed to lesbianism, nudity, lack of dialogue (although there's enough), flutes, fire, open space seating, darkness, or voice overs
See it if You want to see something brilliantly original in form that is a beautiful, funny, and poignant.
Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with silence or having to infer situations with limited dialogue.
See it if You want a truly unique experience that speaks about humanity...or if you want to see a penis onstage.
Don't see it if You enjoy lots of talking. Don't like experimental staging. Are offended by male nudity.
See it if Most original shows I've seen I loved it the cast was magical it was sensitive beautifully acted and moving And extremely intimate evening
Don't see it if If you are uncomfortable with sustained intimacy
See it if you want to see something different that challenges how and what we choose to communicate. It was beautiful and touching and profound.
Don't see it if you need action or a fast moving play. There are few words and one needs to allow it the time to play out on its own schedule.
Get alerts about your favorite artists and theater companies