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Bess Wohl

Grand Horizons

February 10, 2020

Bess Wohl's "Grand Horizons" opens with a pas de deux of marital inertia as Nancy (Jane Alexander) and Bill (James Cromwell), two near-octogenarians wasting their twilight days in a so-called independent living community, wordlessly go through the motions of sitting down to dinner. Their silence, and apparently 50-year marriage, are finally both broken when Nancy dispassionately declares that she "would like a divorce" and with equal nonchalance Bill responds, "All right." Confidently staged, or rather choreographed, by director Leigh Silverman, it's an extraordinary scene that, in truth, could stand alone as its own very brief play with the audience, possibly to its experiential chagrin, imaginatively filling in everything that came before. [more]

Make Believe

September 10, 2019

Bess Wohl’s new play, "Make Believe," is a fascinating study of how the traumas of childhood affect our adult lives, particularly the damage seen and unseen parents inflict on their offspring. Director Michael Greif whose trenchant productions go back to the 1990 "Machinal" at the Public has piloted a fine cast of eight actors both young and mature. Make Believe is at the same time entertaining and enlightening in its dramatizing childhood and its aftermath in an inventive way. [more]

Small Mouth Sounds

July 27, 2016

Inspired by the playwright’s attending a silent spiritual retreat at an upstate New York institute in the woods, this is an absorbing play which immediately causes the viewers to listen intently as our world is never really silent. In Stowe Nelson’s remarkable soundscape, the play begins with a torrential rain, and then proceeds to a great many sounds we usually take for granted (both performed by the actors and recorded): breathing, laughing, clicking of a pen, sighing, a gong ringing, whispers, giggling, crickets chirping, the crunching of chips, birds, a sip of tea, a sneeze, coughing, a cell phone ringing. As a result of this state of affairs and the fact that the actors (in general) don’t speak, we become attuned to watch the smallest facial expression and other forms of non-verbal communication. [more]