REVIEW: SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS at the Arvada Center

by Michael Mulhern

SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS is a play that involves six participants in a silent yoga retreat and their attempts to connect and solve the problems of their lives. So much can be said without uttering a single word. Every Sound Counts – ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS LISTEN!!!

One Year Ago – all the Buzz in Denver was about a fascinating little play that was being put on by the Arvada Center where few words were spoken. Unfortunately the buzz was cut short as the world went into quarantine and theater went into a long hibernation. I was thrilled to see that they decided to remount this intriguing show as their first “Welcome Back to the Arvada Center!”

This Play is a pertinent reminder of the silent insanity we all experienced due to Covid and I applaud the Arvada Center for bringing it back. In this production, just like life – a lot of things were said,and yet a lot of things were not said or resolved. Some Plot Lines were a little forced and some were more organic, but before I became bothered, I had to remind myself that life is non-linear and constantly unpredictable.

Filled with comedy, twists, and drama – Small Mouth Sounds is a Silent descent into madness and it was fascinating to watch. The ultimate lesson that I took away from this play was and is –  SILENCE IS A TWO-EDGED SWORD!!! At times creating joy and clarity but also inflicting pain and revealing truths. 

I did have a couple of issues with the play by playwright Bess Wohl. While I did appreciate the spoken reveal of Ned, it felt like forced empathy for the character. Also I would have liked to have had a couple more testimonials from other guests. Just the one shared oral story felt a little out of place. In addition, the Teacher brought a reflective Zen air to the show in the beginning, but as the show went on his character and story went too over the top and became distracting.

Jessica Austgen as Joan and Kate Gleason as Judy were an adorable couple and had wonderful chemistry. They did a great job of building a lovely character and intermingled arch. Annie Barbour was so much fun to watch and just a delight as Alicia. I loved her spoiled non-conformist ways in the beginning to self discovery and kindness at the end. 

Geoffrey Kent gave such tenderness and humor to the role of Ned. His verbal reveal broke the audiences hearts and his silent story was engaging and genuine. Jake Mendes was a dynamic adonis as Rodney. I enjoyed his confidence from the start and mistakes that were revealed that ultimately humbled his character. Jan was probably my favorite character and was superbly played by Kevin Rich. He is the only character that essentially never speaks and Kevin expertly used his non-verbal skills to give Jan so much dimension. His character twist at the end of the show had me in stitches and ultimately we wonder what happens to him when the curtain closes. Josh Robinson was energetic as the Teacher that kept the plot moving and had several funny moments. Unfortunately the character was too over the top and pulled focus from the main drama onstage.

Director Lynne Collins brought together such a wonderfully talented cast and creative team for this captivating production. She really took the time to explore the characters and build backstories that were portrayed through non verbal cues. While there were no set changes, the flow between the scenes were distinctive and effortless.

Designer Brian Mallgrave was smart to keep the set simple so as to not distract from the actors. l adored his gorgeous mural on the floor that was stunningly colorful and detailed. The Dynamic Duo of sound designer Jason Ducat and lighting designer Shannon McKinney stood out once again with creating each scene with the simplicity and effectiveness of sound and light. Job very well done!

While the script was somewhat disjointed, this accomplished cast persevered in making this a memorable evening of theater!

SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS is alluring audiences now through May 30th on the Main Stage Theatre at the Arvada Center For tickets or more information, contact the Arvada Center Box Office by calling 720-898-7200 or online at www.arvadacenter.org 

PHOTO CREDIT:  Leslie Simon

 

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