Small Mouth Sounds

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March 13 – April 1, 2018

Tu. 7pm – W. 1/7pm – Th. 8pm – F. 8pm – Sat. 2/8pm – Sun. 3pm

A Philadelphia Premiere Play!

Philadelphia Theatre Company presents the Ars Nova production of

SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS

By Bess Wohl
Directed by Rachel Chavkin

Run Time: 100 minutes without intermission.
Recommended for ages 14+
Please note: This production contains male nudity of a non-sexual nature.

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Be ready to take a deep breath.

Following an acclaimed run in New York City, Small Mouth Sounds, a unique and compassionate new play written by Bess Wohl and directed by Rachel Chavkin, asks how we address life’s biggest questions when words fail us. The New York Times, New York Magazine, AND Time Out NY Critics’ Pick is coming to Philadelphia for the first time! In the overwhelming quiet of the woods, six runaways from city life embark on a silent retreat. As these strangers confront internal demons both profound and absurd, their vows of silence collide with the achingly human need to connect.

featuring
Connor Barrett
Ben Beckley
Edward Chin-lyn
Orville Mendoza
Brenna Palughi
Socorro Santiago
Cherene Snow

Set Design by Laura Jellinek
Costume Design by Tilly Grimes
Lighting Design by Mike Inwood
Props Design by Noah Mease
Sound Design by Stowe Nelson
Video Design by Andrew Schneider
Production Stage Manager James Steele

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Meet the Cast & Characters

Alicia

 

About Alicia

ALICIA is around thirty-ish, strawberry blonde (sometimes more strawberry, sometimes more blonde) from Southern California. She is the kind of person who manages to make a lot of noise even when she’s “in silence.” She has zippers on her clothes and bag. She has wrappers that must be unwrapped. She has bracelets that jangle. She sips loudly. She breathes loudly. She has shoes with heels that click. She shakes out her hair and scratches her head and adjusts her bra and it’s an entire three-act play. It’s because she likes being watched.

She was a child beauty pageant star and actor. Though born in Arizona, her parents moved her to LA when she started getting commercials. She was on a few episodes of Party of Five as a friend of Lacey Chabert’s character. That was pretty much the high point. Most recently, she was in a commercial for a nationwide wireless company, where her role was to act really surprised and say, “Gotcha!” Sometimes people recognize her from that, which she both kind of hates and kind of loves. These days, Alicia gets her performance fix by doing karaoke alone. She belts out “Someone Like You” with an intensity that would rival Adele’s.

She didn’t use to do this kind of pathetic embarrassing thing. Up ‘til a few months ago, she was with Fred. Fred was a hedge fund guy who liked Alicia because she seemed unmoored enough to bend to his will. She was, and things worked for a very long time. But then Fred got bored of being with somebody who would bend to his will. (Alicia believes that Fred had undiagnosed ADHD.) There was a situation with a hooker. Alicia still didn’t move out. This fact, among several others, still makes her burn with shame. Finally, Fred kicked her out. (She had started, out of unexpressed rage, brushing her hair and leaving the hairballs around the apartment, like a cat peeing on the walls.) The day she moved out, she gave Fred one last blow job upstairs while the U-Haul waited outside. (More shame.) She had to move in with her cousin who lives in Long Island City; here, she discovered Fred had given her chlamydia. It was around then that a therapist she’d started seeing suggested she develop a spiritual practice. She doesn’t have a lot of experience with any of this. But she needs something, anything, actually, to take away the pain of living without Fred, whom she still loves desperately, achingly, utterly. (Shame.)

She still spends a lot of time online stalking Fred. Texting Fred. Texting with her friends about Fred. Checking Fred’s Instagram feed. Checking his Facebook page. Her heart is fucking destroyed over Fred. If what was happening on the inside was happening on the outside, instead of being a very attractive thirty-two year-old (people think she’s twenty eight) she’d be a fucking quadriplegic. She’s looking for something– or somebody– to make her feel okay again.

About Brenna

BRENNA PALUGHI (Alicia) Broadway: A Time To Kill. New York: ‘Sarah’ in Scared of Sarah (La Mama), Naked in a Fishbowl and King Lear (Cherry Lane). Regional: World Builders (CATF), Phedre, Orlando, Three Sisters (Yale). TV & Film: High Maintenance, The Family, Mysteries of Laura, Royal Pains, Mozart in the JungleSynechdoche, NY, She She, and the short film Close, which she wrote and directed. She founded a theater company, Virago, and is a proud company member of The Actor’s Center in NYC. MFA Yale School of Drama.

Jan

 

About Jan

JAN, fifty-ish, is from a small town in Finland. He is pale and sweet, with a wide-eyed, continually curious air about him, like a little sprite or a woodland creature. He is a pastor at a small, Lutheran church back in Finland, and his church has sent him on a one-year sabbatical to explore religious life around the world and figure out a way to appeal to more of the Finnish people, who have become increasingly secular. He always wears a small backpack, in which he carries a bottle of water, trail mix, sunblock, and other necessities. He does exercises in the morning for his health. Jan likes to be prepared.

He came to religion later in life, after a personal tragedy — a son who died after a prolonged and terrible illness at the age of six. Jan’s wife then moved to South America to study the Argentinian Tango. Jan, who had been working in advertising, went back to school to study religion and philosophy, hoping that it might help him understand why things happen the way they do. It didn’t explain much, but it did give him a new community. And a sense of purpose – to help others. Still, sometimes at night, when he starts to suspect he really can do nothing to help people, he wakes up seized with a sense of panic that freezes him like a solid wooden board. He waits all night for the sun to come up, too scared to move a muscle. Then he takes a lot, lot, lot of pharmaceuticals and tries not to fall asleep in the middle of his sermon the next day.

He misses his son. He is hoping maybe this retreat will have an answer for him, where more traditional religious experiences have failed. He also greatly overestimated his familiarity with the English language.

About Connor

CONNOR BARRETT (Jan) Theater: The Purple Lights of Joppa Illinois, Finer Noble Gases, The Metal, ‘Saul Kimmer’ in Adam Rapp’s production of True West. Various work at Geva Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center, and Williamstown Theatre Festival. Other New York credits include SPF and the New York Fringe Festival. Film/television: The Runaround, Hot in Cleveland, We Hate Paul Revere, True Blood, Parks and Recreation, CSI: NY, Harry’s Law, Rita Rocks, Do Not Disturb, The Jury, and Guiding Light. He has a BFA in acting from Northwestern University and an MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Judy

 

About Judy

JUDY, maybe fifty, is Joan’s partner. She works at O Magazine as a top editor in the art department; a few times a year, she finds herself in the same room with Oprah. She’s the kind of person who only needs four hours of sleep per night. She gets a lot of email. She wakes up and walks on the treadmill while watching Fox News. She finds that building up a healthy rage in the morning helps her greet the day.

She likes control. She likes to be in control of her image. Her wardrobe is all big silver jewelry and Eileen Fisher in neutral tones, although for this particular weekend she has brought mostly Lululemon. She makes a good living. She eats a lot of grilled fish. She’s direct. She grew up with three brothers. She always felt she had to prove herself as equal to the boys. She has had a recent diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and, as the doctor said, she “will not have a good outcome.” This is a serious problem for her sense of control.

Her soft spot is Joan. She and Joan met at a Buddhist lecture series in Manhattan. Judy had thought about exploring spirituality because she had an intermittent eye tic doctors told her could be stress related. It was embarrassing. People on the subway thought she was winking. She and Joan went out for green juice– she’d never had green juice before– and she never looked back. Now, she’s not really that into spirituality anymore, knows she should meditate, never has the time, but she’s here because, simply put, she loves Joan madly. She loves how Joan eats. She loves how Joan smells. She loves the heat Joan gives off when she sleeps. She is very afraid Joan will leave – just when she needs Joan the most.

About Cherene

CHERENE SNOW (Judy) Broadway: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Scarlett Johansson. Off-Broadway/ Regional: Walking Down Broadway, Last of the Thorntons, Welcome To Fear City, Having Our Say, Little Foxes, Fata Morgana, brownsville song: b-side for tray, Civil War Voices, Black Pearl Sings, Doubt, To Kill a Mockingbird, Coyote on a Fence. Film/TV: Arthur, Perhaps Tomorrow, My Sassy Girl, City of Angels, The Long Walk Home, Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, Third Watch, Chappelle’s Show.

Rodney

 

About Rodney

RODNEY, mid-thirties, ageless, fit, gorgeous, grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and teaches yoga in New York and the Hamptons (in the summer). He is married to a woman named Nadine who also teaches yoga. Rodney and Nadine have had articles about them in various local yoga magazines and are designing a line of vegan bags, wallets, and jewelry together made of a substance that looks exactly like real leather. Rodney wears lots of man jewelry, but he is pulling it off.

Rodney met Nadine because she was his student. The truth is, Rodney has had sex with a bunch of his students over the years – both before and after being married to Nadine. (Eighteen. But who’s counting. Certainly not Rodney.) In fact, he started his own yoga practice after being kicked out of one in the Bay Area due to sexual harassment. He pursues these women in part because once he has something, he never wants it anymore. He thought Nadine was different because she was extra-gorgeous and had that rich-person, inaccessible thing that really got under his skin. Also, she had a trust fund, which financed his east coast yoga studio. Now, he and Nadine have not had sex in three years.

When they try to talk about it, Nadine just bursts into tears and runs out of the room. Rodney thinks Nadine probably has some history of abuse in her past, which he is totally not responsible for, and, which, according to his therapist and his inner north star, he cannot take on. He has convinced himself that the kindest thing is to stay with Nadine, who is fragile, and satisfy his sexual urges on the side. The truth is, all of the sex with young nubile yogis is really about his panicky fear of aging and death. Nadine makes him feel trapped, and this reminds him he’s going to get old and die. His man jewelry does not include a wedding ring.

About Edward

EDWARD CHIN-LYN (Rodney) Television/Film: Set It Up, Jessica Jones, Feed the Beast, Limitless, Elementary, Person of Interest, The Mysteries of Laura, Mysteries at the Museum. Theater: KPOP, True West, Reconstruction, Leviticus w. Bekah Brunstetter, 2015 Worldwide Play Festival, The BrigWakeYou Can’t Take It With You, A Grimm Reality, A Year in the Lifewww.edwardchinlyn.com

Ned

 

About Ned

NED, somewhere in his forties, has had a severe run of bad luck worse than the worst country western song. Here’s what happened: First, Ned, ever the outdoor enthusiast, went rock climbing to try to clear his head, and he ended up falling and cracking his skull in eight places. (You can still see the scars. It’s why he wears the hat.) He spent two years in and out of the hospital, during which time his identity was stolen, his house burned down due to electrical problems, and his wife, Dawn, got a tattoo. The tattoo was, in a way, the most upsetting part because Dawn is not the tattoo type. She lost the baby weight. She got highlights in her hair. She started reading the newspaper and having opinions. Suffice it to say, this was all evidence of what should be blatantly obvious – Dawn had started fucking around – specifically with Ned’s younger brother, Josh. Josh, who was always the fuck-up. Josh, a failed musician with a past heroin addiction who now sings in a band called Seedlings at kiddie music classes and birthday parties. Pretty soon, Dawn and Josh had fixed up the house, kicked Ned out of it, and were living together with the kids.

Then things got worse. Ned’s parents died. Then he started drinking. He tried to stop by joining AA. Then his sponsor, Elijah, went off his meds and walked into traffic on the Long Island Expressway. Soon after that, Ned’s dog was hit by a car, too.

You know when things are just so unfair that you feel like you might just have to grab a pitcher of kerosene and burn down the house a second time in order to make things right again? That’s what Ned was feeling. So he bought a pitcher of kerosene and was about to burn down Josh and Dawn’s house when something stopped him. A little voice inside. It told him there was another path. And led him to study a variety of meditation, self-helpy, new-agey books, which helped him avoid committing homicide. And now, for the very first time, he has saved up enough money to go on a retreat – this particular retreat, with this particular teacher, whom he greatly admires. This year, Josh and Dawn are expecting a kid. Ned is contemplating homicide again.

About Ben

BEN BECKLEY (Ned) recently appeared in Dying For It at Atlantic Theater Company (directed by Neil Pepe) and the first national tour of Peter and the Starcatcher (directed by Alex Timbers and Roger Rees). Other work includes plays with Clubbed Thumb, New Georges, TACT, and Berkshire Theatre Group; musicals with Prospect Theater Company, Public Theater/Joe’s Pub, and Playhouse on Park; four international tours with Temporary Distortion; and five original works with The Assembly (company member, all directed by Jess Chayes). On-camera credits include The Onion, The Jew of Malta, and Easy Living. www.benbeckley.com

Joan

 

About Joan

JOAN, late forties, wears a lot of clothes and jewelry from India. She is a therapist and sex educator in colleges, high schools, and private practice with couples. She likes to focus on pleasure rather than on fear or “don’ts.” For example, she asks her teenagers, “Okay, I know you are having sex, now how can we make it more fun?” She meets with her private clients in a sunny office full of framed photos of her dog, Small Fry, and a small ceramic dish of Werthers Originals on her coffee table. She really loves Werthers Originals. She has a roll of them in her pocket right now. It’s about pleasure, people.

She is also incredibly, mind-bendingly, soul-crushingly angry, and she has been since about the age of six when her parents got divorced and her mother told her, “Daddy doesn’t love us enough.” She first discovered she was pretty in college, and then promptly got raped by a frat boy. She became bulimic. Now, she meditates and does yoga.

At times, her rage still bubbles to the surface in little ways in spite of her efforts to breathe through it. She might compliment you on a haircut when you know it’s terrible. She might say you look healthy and well rested when you know you’ve gained weight. She might spend five minutes brushing her teeth. She might write a really mean anonymous comment on a blog. She might become obsessed with hating a stranger. She might leave, just when you need her the most.

About Socorro

SOCORRO SANTIAGO (Joan) Broadway: The Bacchae.  Off-Broadway: Roundabout Theatre, Clubbed Thumb, Rattlestick Theatre, Public Theatre, INTAR, EST, BAM, Ma-Yi Theatre, 59E59 Theatre, Lark theatre. Regional: Long Wharf Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens (Jeff Award), Huntington (IRNE nomination), Shakespeare Theatre, Guthrie Theatre. TV: Mozart in the Jungle, Seven Seconds, all the “Law & Orders,” Characters, Blue Bloods, All My Children (ALMA Award). Films: FreedomlandHeaven’s PrisonersDevil’s AdvocateiCreep, recently completed filming on Widows, directed by Steven McQueen.

Teacher

About ‘Teacher’

You’ll just have to see the show to find out!

About Orville

ORVILLE MENDOZA (Teacher) Select credits. Broadway: Peter and the Starcatcher, Pacific Overtures. Off-Broadway: Pacific Overtures (Classic Stage Co.), Found (Atlantic Theatre Co.), Passion (CSC), Romeo and Juliet, Timon of Athens, and Road Show (all at The Public/NYSF). Regional: La Jolla Playhouse, ACT, Philadelphia Theatre Co., KC Rep., East West Players, Goodspeed, Long Wharf. TV: The Blacklist, Law and Order: CI, and many commercials. Orville is a Drama Desk Award nominee and Barrymore Award winner. www.orvillemendoza.com.

About the Playwright & Director

BESS WOHL (Playwright) Bess Wohl’s plays include Small Mouth Sounds (Top Ten of 2015 in The New York Times, The Guardian, New York Post, and others, Best of 2016 in New York Magazine and others); Continuity (upcoming at The Goodman Theatre New Stages); American Hero, Barcelona (LA Ovation Award nomination); Touched; In; Cats Talk Back; and the original musical Pretty Filthy in collaboration with Michael Friedman and The Civilians (Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk nominations for Outstanding Musical). Her work has been produced or developed at Second Stage, Ars Nova, The Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Geffen Playhouse, and many others.  She is the recipient of the Sam Norkin special Drama Desk Award for “establishing herself as an important voice in New York theater” and the John Gassner Outer Critics Circle Award. Bess also writes for film and television and has developed projects for HBO, ABC, USA, Disney, Paramount, and others. (Photograph by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey)

RACHEL CHAVKIN (Director) is a director, writer, and dramaturg, as well as the artistic director of Brooklyn-based company the TEAM (www.theteamplays.org), whose unique collaborative process was the subject of a documentarySelected work: Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 (Ars Nova, Kazino, A.R.T., Broadway), Marco Ramirez’s The Royale (Old Globe, LCT), Bess Wohl’s Small Mouth Sounds (Ars Nova/Off-Broadway/national tour), Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown (NYTW), Anne Washburn’s Iphigenia in Aulis (CSC), and multiple collaborations with Taylor Mac including judy’s extravaganza The Lily’s Revenge, Act 2 (HERE). The TEAM’s work has been seen worldwide, including at the Public Theater, PS122, UK’s National Theatre and Royal Court, the National Theatre of Scotland and festivals across Europe, Australia, and Asia. NYTW Usual Suspect. Winner of 3 Obie Awards, Drama Desk, Elliot Norton & IRNE awards, multiple Lucille Lortel nominations, twice nominated for the Doris Duke Impact Award, and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Direction for her work on Great Comet. She and Comet’s Dave Malloy are recipients of the 2017 Smithsonian Award for Ingenuity. (Photograph by Chad Batka)

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Videos courtesy of American Conservatory Theater. Character profiles and headshots courtesy of Ars Nova.

Photo: Ben Arons Photography; 2017 Tour Cast.