Review Roundup: Bess Wohl's SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS

SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS, written by Bess Wohl, returns to New York this summer for a strictly limited engagement. Directed by Obie Award-winner Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812), SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS runs at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street) through September 25, 2016.

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 new play asks how we address life's biggest questions when words fail us.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Charles Isherwood, New York Times: Although the stage at the Signature Center is modestly larger than the one at Ars Nova, there's no diminishment of the play's intimacy, which is enhanced by the staging. Most of the action takes place on a rectangular playing space, with the audience seated in a few rows on either side of it. Only when they are receiving instruction from the leader of the retreat - who remains unseen but is voiced with hilariously oily piety by Jojo Gonzalez - do the characters assemble on chairs at one end of the stage.

Jesse Green, Vulture: Aside from an occasional unicorn like The Humans, Off and Off-Off Broadway plays almost never dare transfer to Broadway anymore, which means that New Yorkers who miss them in their original limited runs don't get a second chance. Bess Wohl's Small Mouth Sounds seemed to be one such play: Despite rave reviews for its premiere in March of last year, it closed as scheduled after six weeks and basically disappeared. How many people saw it in Ars Nova's 99-seat space? Perhaps 5,000. (Thanks to end-stage Tony-mania, I wasn't one of them.) And yet here it is again, in the 199-seat Linney Courtyard Theatre at the Signature Center, where it opens tonight for a three-month commercial run. Should it succeed, that would be great news, and not just because the theater industry needs to find a fruitful middle ground between tiny not-for-profit stages and Broadway, with middle-ground prices to match. Over the course of its run, some 20,000 people, typically paying $75, could catch Small Mouth Sounds at the Signature.

Max McGuinness, Financial Times: At its best, Small Mouth Sounds contrives sublime moments of Chaplinesque comedy from this clash between Nirvana and reality. As a bottle blonde with poor romantic judgment, Zoë Winters turns in a particularly winsome performance (await her semi-clothed encounter with a bear), while Brad Heberlee impresses as an unemployed nerd desperately seeking explanations for his sorry fate. Wohl also wittily conveys how the smartphone has put a definitive end to peace and quiet even in the remotest places.

Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: In director Rachel Chavkin's ravishingly good production, one end of the long, rectangular playing space is occupied by a raised stage. The audience is seated, though, in several lengthy rows on either side of the floor, facing center, and much of the action takes place in the floor space between.

David Cote, TimeOut NY: Silence is golden in Bess Wohl's exquisite play set at an upstate meditation retreat where six strangers take (and mostly break) a vow not to speak. But baser metals also emerge from the vacuum of verbiage: When we don't have everyday babble muting the noise in our heads, we risk drowning in an ocean of loneliness, grief and fear. 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.

Steven Suskin, Huffington Post: 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.

Joe Meyers, Connecticut Post: In an age of endless distraction and chatter, "Small Mouth Sounds" reminds us of the power of simplicity and the ways that only a live performance can connect with an audience. I strongly urge you to visit The Pershing Square Signature Center between now and the end of September for this unique play.

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