Sunday, October 14, 2018

Small Mouth Sounds—Artists Rep—SW Portland


“Silence is Golden”


     This rather unusual premise for a story is written by Bess Wohl and directed by Shawn Lee.  It is playing at their space, 1515 SW Morrison St., through November 4th.  For more information, go to their site at www.artistsrep.org

     “Noises compete, grasshopper, as silence retreats.”  Sometimes silence can be deafening, as it is in this story.  We are so wrapped up in our worlds of computers, texting, and artificial noises, that we fail to communicate through a simple hug or smile, or a knowing look of encouragement.  Our world may have been created with a (Big) Bang and it’s likely it will end the same way.  What we have wrought, so shall we reap…unless we find that Quiet Place, not only on the outer crusts of this planet, but in the inner stillness of our being.

     This play explores Silence in unusual ways.  The one who expounds the most, the Teacher (Mary McDonald-Lewis), really may have the least to impart to her students at this retreat, all there to take a break from the world and/or find some sort of peace.  The main element to be adhered to is silence in this EST-type of surroundings. 

     The verbose, Joan (Susannah Mars) and her lover, the more refined, Judy (Ayanna Berkshire), seem to be there to work out some personal issue.  The gregarious, Alicia (Kelly Godell), is a product of words but seems intent on translating them into some forgotten knowledge that has escaped her to this point.  Ned (Darius Pierce) is a socially awkward individual, trying to find inroads to adapting socially to an unfamiliar world to him.

     Rodney (John San Nicolas) is a video guru of finding one’s path through yoga, but senses there is something important he has yet to learn.  And Jan (Michael Mendelson), a quiet person to begin with, but is reaching out to try and encompass a larger world he is not familiar with.  All searchers, and their journeys will conflict, connect and invade their very psyches before this trip is completed.  More I cannot tell you without spoiling the discoveries.

     This is almost completely a who’s who of the Artists Rep’s family and a talented ensemble they are as a cast.  Godell, as a bit of a flake, is perfect in her utter unawareness (I know people like her).  Mars is wonderful as a well-meaning friend who acts before she thinks about it.  Berkshire has a noble stillness to her being, pent up inside but wanting to expand.  San Nicolas is perfect as the smirking know-it-all until the mask begins to fall.  Mendelson is a gem as his character displays a quiet intensity as the newbie who yearns for understanding and acceptance.  McDonald-Lewis is a great voice actor who is so good you can almost see her, as she muddles through the “lessons.”  And Pierce is amazing in his naturalness in his monologue, as he exposes himself, and you truly feel for all the pained people in this world who are struggling to just be heard and understood.  It is an insightful trek for all of us and Lee has carefully led us successfully on this safari.

I recommend this play (nudity in one scene) and if you choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

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