Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Small Mouth Sounds
American Conservatory Theater
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Patrick's review of The Game's Afoot and Richard's reviews of Le Switch, and The Lion in Winter

The Cast of Small Mouth Sounds
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
American Conservatory Theater is presenting a hilarious production of Bess Wohl's Small Mouth Sounds, a new, insightful comedy involving six acolytes at a five-day meditative retreat in the woods running from their individual problems. They all take a vow of silence. It starts with the group filing in one by one to sit on folding chairs. The Teacher addresses the group and lays out the straightforward rules, like "Smoking is not permitted and clothing is optional at the lake." The Teacher is not seen but is heard making god-like announcements.

The six followers consist of Joan (Socorro Santiago) and Judy (Cherene Snow), a lesbian couple; Rodney (Edward Chin-lyn), who almost half of the time displays his "shortcomings" and likes to hold court in yoga positions; Ned (Ben Beckley), the only camper who states his traumas plainly; Jan (Connor Barrett), whose son recently died; and Alicia (Brenna Palughi), who has a habit of showing up late and is unable to part with her cell phone—and unable to get over the man who broke up with her.

There is very little dialogue; it's more like a 100-minute silent movie. There are gestures, expressions, snorts and growls—giving the audience a glimpse of what these individuals are like, mostly with words, through the understated motions. It's like watching six stories in progress.

Cast members Connor Barrett, Ben Beckley, Edward Chin-Lyn, Orville Mendoza, Socorro Santiago, and Cherene Snow are absolutely outstanding. If the obscurities prompt some confusion and even frustration, they also help us to sympathize with the characters' lack of simplicity.

American Conservatory Theater's Small Mouth Sounds, through December 10, 2017, at the A.C.T. Strand, 1127 Market Street, San Francisco CA. Tickets are available by calling 415-749-2228 or visiting Next up is the timeless favorite, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, running December 1 through December 24.