By Bess Wohl
Director Jo Turner
Photography Robert Catto
Eternity Playhouse until May 26
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
If you’ve ever encountered a spiritual “guru”, you’ll appreciate Small Mouth Sounds at the Eternity Playhouse. Think Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and James Redfield on a much smaller scale.
A group of six people from diverse backgrounds come together for a week-long retreat facilitated by an American who, as is usual with gurus, asks more questions than provides answers. The guru asks a question to which the student answers, “I don’t know”, and the guru replies, “If you did know, what would it be?”
One of the agreements is that the students aren’t allowed to use electronic communication or even converse with each other, only directly with the guru, although they’re tempted to break the rules.
The no-speaking device is excellent for relying on gesturing and the use of facial expressions to project the emotional journeys of each of the students and reactions to the guru’s discourses and with each other. In dialogue with the guru, the only backstory that is revealed is that of Jan. I would have liked to have heard from the other characters as well.
The strong cast includes Sharon Millerchip (Joan), Amber McMahon (Alicia) are Yalin Ozucelik (Ned), Jane Phegan (Judy), Justin Smith (Jan) and Dorje Swallow (Rodney).
Part of the skill of the non-verbal communication in the production comes from director Jo Turner who is a graduate of École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, the French mime school that includes Geoffrey Rush as a graduate. In a stroke of irony, Turner plays the guru who is just a voice-over. The person who is most qualified in mime is never seen. The guru is a two-dimensional character who is constantly interrupted by his mobile phone after claiming that he doesn’t own one. His hypocrisy is more obvious than with some real-like perceived gurus.
Small Mouth Sounds is an amusing production but leave it off your list if you’re offended by male nudity.
There is the story of a certain American-based lifestyle guru who was to speak in front of an audience of 600 in Philadelphia on the subject of “Immortality and Eternal Good Health”. As it turned out, he couldn’t appear because he was ill. Captain Irony strikes again.