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EMAV Review: 'Small Mouth Sounds' is a near-silent tour-de-force ★★★★★

Updated: Mar 8, 2019

★★★★★ - Irresistible

We’ve often heard “acting is reacting” but that is an over-simplification. It’s really not that easy. Not by a long shot. The toughest job an actor can face is being on the stage without any lines to speak. For without lines, most people would ask, how does an actor let you know what is going on, what their motivation is, what is bothering them–what their innermost thoughts are–at the crux of a scene?

Silence your electronic equipment and breathe in…breathe out. Breathe in…breathe out. Those are only a couple of the “Small Mouth Sounds” you’re going to hear as A Public Fit presents Bess Wohl’s delightful, quirky play. You’ll hear even less speaking. Yet this talented ensemble evokes laughter and tears without a need for Silent Screen-type captioning.

Six people gather at a woodland retreat to make peace with what life is shoving (or has shoved) at them, or simply “find themselves.” As directed by Ann-Marie Pereth, “Small Mouth Sounds” is a tour-de-force. Consider it a Master Class, not only in acting but in life.

The cast portrays a cornucopia of disparate characters: Jan (Timothy Cummings) is the follower dealing with loss, Rodney (Mario Peoples) is the experienced-at-this hunk, Ned (Marcus Weiss) is easily confused and unsure, Joan (Valerie Carpenter Bernstein) is the exhausted caretaker and partner of Judy (Dina Emerson) the cancer patient, Alicia (Jamie Carvelli Pikrone) is a hot mess and deals with a different kind of loss albeit no less (immediately) painful than Jan’s. Then there is the unseen Teacher (Erik Amblad), who leads the group through their week of silence and does the most speaking via a god mic.

Assisted by Josh Wroblewski’s beautiful atmospheric lighting, Eric A. Koger designed a wonderful set that provides everything from classroom to bunkhouse to forest. Add in sound by Arles Estes and the effect is complete immersion.

Without dialogue, how does one gather even the most basic of information? The way we all do. Every day as we interact with everyone around us. By shrugs, by exasperated sighs, by smiles, hand gestures, head nods or shakes, or the short verbal phrase here and there; an “I guess,” or “Whatever.” How we interpret those signals determines our immediate emotional reaction. Interesting how alike and together in the world we all are, isn’t it?

In the end, what you find funny, what brings you to shed a tear, will depend upon where you are in your own journey. That determines how you interpret the display of humanity on the stage. One thing is guaranteed, this production will move you.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays through March 10

2 p.m. Saturday March 2, 9

Where: The Usual Place, 100 S. Maryland Parkway

Tickets: $25 - $30 (

Producer: A Public Fit; Artistic Director: Ann Marie Pereth; Producing Director: Joseph D. Kucan; Director: Ann Marie Pereth; Set Design: Eric A. Koger; Lighting Design: Josh Wroblewski; Sound Design: Arles Estes; Costume Design: Mariya Radeva-Nedyalkova; Stage Manager: Brandi Blackman

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