Small Mouth Sounds and Signature Theatre Café

In this intense, 100-minute, no intermission play, six people attend a silent meditation retreat. An unseen guru guides all-knowingly, promising participants that they will be changed by their experience. The guests are mandated to leave their cell phones at home, but when the guru's phone rings, he says, "I have to take this."

An appealing guest played by Brad Heberlee provides a monologue about his sad life, which was in and of itself good--but left us thinking each would get their turn to win our sympathies, à la Chorus Line. Fortunately, that does not happen--but one watches Small Mouth Sounds (terrible name for a play) expecting the worst. There is a lot of crying; each is overcoming a personal tragedy. A lesbian couple, played by Marcia deBonis and Quincy Tyler Bernstine, are the most affecting, dealing with illness. Theirs is an unsentimental part and inspiring. The one character who maintains his silence, Jan, played by Max Baker, creates a whole story when silent. His blue-eyed empathy is a beacon. If only the other characters didn't talk so much.

Bess Wohl and Rachel Chavkin are playwright and director of this ambitious play. Set designer Laura Jellinek came up with thrilling wrap-around video projection of summer cricket and hard rainfall.

Frank Gehry designed the Signature Theatre, a performing arts complex with three theatres, a drama bookstore, and a café bar with a grand piano, open most days in the afternoon. The café serves gooey flatbread pizzas, a fine salade niçoise ($8), hot empanadas, wraps, sandwiches and desserts. Paper plates and plastic forks, but wine is served in a proper glass. Friendly bar service, well lit, comfortable, and a late happy hour when the shows let out. For a mere $25 annual subscription you can be a card-carrying member of this happy, arty place.