Sunday, July 13, 2008


It's sort of a shame that in a play about sound, the visuals are what stand out the most. Rebecca Makus's lighting design casts silhouettes onto a scrim, allowing us to watch the sad tale of one of those unheard, unseen eventual suicides. To fully immerse us in that otherworld, Peter S. Petralia (who also wrote the script), has the audience don headphones, which combine Foley sound effects with spoken text and prerecorded music. Whisper comes across like an old Beckett radio play, not just for the dim narrative, but for the precise and focused vision.

The scrim is a double-edged sword, for while it enables the manipulation of size and substance, and captures the essence of anonymity with its neat little prisons of light, it also keeps everything distant, and never manages an emotional connection. At first, Whisper moves on innovation alone, with the sound of dripping water enough of a novelty that plot is unnecessary. But as the show continues, the narrative doesn't deepen: it just continues to describe things, often in a dull monotone. The bright white light is already an absence of color: the script, therefore, needs to do more.

Still, this is the sort of wild experimentation that you'll always find me an enthusiast for. The technique of the production is flawless, and Alice Booth, Gillian Lees, and Andrew Westerside give exact (although not exacting) performances. The disconnect between craft and substance makes Whisper more of an ethereal tech demo than a finished product: until that's resolved, actions will continue to speak louder than words.

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