Shhhh. In This Play The Clues Are In The Quiet
Listen to the quiet in Beth Wohl’s play Small Mouth Sounds, which is launching its national tour at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre’s Aug. 31 and continuing through Sunday, Sept. 24.
But more important, watch the characters closely, look for the slightest signs of revelation and see how they react—and illuminate—their selves without (almost) saying a word.
The mostly dialogue-less play is set on a silent retreat where a mixed group of folks have come to find spiritual healing or new starts for their lives.
But vows of silence come up against the human need to connect which makes the play at times very funny, other times poignant.
At the play’s beginning—and at several times during the intermission-less work—you hear the voice of an off-stage facilitator giving the arrivals instructions, setting the New Age mood and then leading them in group exercises.
But these characters are, more or less, left to their word-less own—and so is the audience.
“My aspiration was for the audience to watch the play a little differently,” says Wohl from her Brooklyn home, “almost like being detectives, looking for clues that reveal character.”
She got the idea for the play when a friend invited her to a retreat in upstate New York and immediately realized the theatrical potential in the setting and situation “and I started writing notes.” Wohl returned again—this time with her mother—to do further research for the play—and no, she did not keep quiet during her stays. At one point she and her mother escaped the woods to spend the night in a nearby hotel.
“We just couldn’t take it any longer,” she says.
“I wondered if I could write a play without words,” she says. “And since I have a contrarian nature, I set out to prove that I could.”