Review | Small Mouth Sounds: meditative comedy

The Jungle Theater: through June 16

Becca Hart, Michael Curran-Dorsana, Eric Sharp and Jim Lichtscheidl in SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS. Photo by Dan Norman

Six characters in search of an authorial presence. Bess Wohl‘s amusing Small Mouth Sounds (at the Jungle, through June 16) suffers from this. The primary problem with the play – essentially a portrait of six people at a wilderness (apparently; there are bears, owls, skeeters and delirious moons) meditation retreat – is that the “teacher” (Jay Owen Eisenberg), a disembodied and, imho, somewhat annoying voice, admonishes the characters to maintain silence, a rule they by and large honor. Only those characters who violate the rule of silence – Judy (Faye M. Price) and Joan (Christina Baldwin), who seem to be in the midst of a rather lovely relationship; and Ned (a marvelous turn by Michael Curran-Dorsano, who delivers one of the most affecting hard-luck stories you will ever hear) emerge with substance and power. The others remain ciphers.

But you have to give the Jungle cast (and director Lauren Keating) major credit for finding ways to give the characters substance despite the stifling rule of silence. And this being the Jungle, it goes without saying that the acting – the beauteous and intelligent Baldwin, the beauteously beautiful Becca Hart, the ever-charismatic Eric Sharp, the sweetly powerful Price, Curran-Dorsano. The great Jim Lichtscheidl has a very effective surprise for us. It turns out that he’s…

Oh, did you think I was going to reveal the surprise? Think again.

And the design thrills, especially the rich lighting (Karin Olson). Sets (Mina Kinukawa), costumes (Sarah Bahr), sound (Reid Rejsa) are also vg.

Small Mouth Sounds is a slight play but it’s also very unusual. And Keating and her cast really make it work.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, about the magic of bedtime stories, has been published. John’s The Voice Of The Prairie has been performed 100 plus times and ditto Minnesota Moon and his adaptation of Sideways Stories From Wayside School. The Summer Moon won a Kennedy Center Award For Drama. John has won fellowships from the Bush Foundation, The McKnight Foundation and from The National Endowment For The Arts. Please visit his informational website.

 

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