Intermission Talk

“Small Mouth Sounds”

Tell Big, Big Secrets

during “The Layover”



There seems to be a rediscovery of the real craft that infused the film noir era in Hollywood – approximately early ’40s through early ’50s – and if you can recall the shot of seeing Barbara Stanwyck, descending those stairs, a few feet above her shoe-line, wearing only a diamond ankle bracelet in “Double Indemnity” – you’ll be in familiar territory with this less-than-entirely-successful new play, “The Layover,”  by Leslye Headland.  Guaranteeing that the important premise of meet-cute has been met, two young adults – Dexter is 42, Shellie is late 30’s something – are seated side by side on a flight from Denver to New York, and have been grounded in Chicago for a layover due to mechanical problems.  So far, so predictable.  After some harmless, kinda barbed banter when she says she teaches “American crime fiction,” attested to by a novel she’s reading of the genre.  He reveals that he’s an engineer, working on a new architectural project.  Not many sparks fly, until they run into each other again in the airport cafe.  Pretty soon, they’re in a hotel room with an imposing double bed.  His phone call from a fiance lets her know his social status; she says she’s an avowed single girl, and loves the independence.

Layover Second Stage QUINCY DUNN-BAKER (Kevin/Arno) Also at Second Stage: Trust and Wildflower (2ST Uptown). Off-Broadway: By The Water (MTC), The Wayside Motor Inn (Signature, Drama Desk Award), The Forest (Classic Stage Company), The Good Negro (The Public), The First Breeze of Summer (Signature), Romeo and Juliet (The Public/NYSF) and Mr. Marmalade (Roundabout) Regional: Magnetic North (Portland Stage), A Streetcar Named Desire (Triad Stage), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Germany/ Switzerland), Deathtrap and Murder on the Nile (Dorset Theater). TV: “Chicago Med,” “The Blacklist,” “ Dead-Beat,” “The Following,” "Blue Bloods,” "A Gifted Man,” "Law & Order: SVU," "Law & Order: CI," "Nurse Jackie," "CSI:NY," "As The World Turns," "One Life To Live," "Guiding Light”. Film: Cigarette Soup, Draft Day, The Word, The Big Wedding, Hannah Has A Ho Phase, Teleglobal Dreamin' (SXSW), and Sister. BFA, The North Carolina School of the Arts. ARICA HIMMEL (Lily) age 11, Arica is honored to be making her off-Broadway debut in The Layover. A native New Yorker, Arica is a pianist and aspiring filmmaker. She's an avid reader and baker. Arica began training at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre at age ten. ANNIE PARISSE (Shellie). Second Stage: Becky Shaw (Lortel Nom.). Broadway: Clybourne Park, Prelude to a Kiss. Select Off-Broadway: Antlia Pneumatica, All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, The Internationalist (Drama Desk Nom.) , Monster, and The Credeaux Canvas. TV: “Vinyl,” “The Following,” “Law & Order," "Rubicon," “House of Cards,” "The Big C," "Person of Interest," and "Unforgettable". Film: Anesthesia, And So it Goes, Wild Canaries, Price Check, One for the Money among others. Member: AEA. JOHN PROCACCINO(Fred) Broadway: Our Mother’s Brief Affair and An Enemy of the People (MTC), A Time to Kill, An American Daughter, A Thousand Clowns, Conversations with My Father, Art. Off-Broadway: Love and Information (NYTW); Blood and Gifts, Nikolai and the Ot

The entire middle section, played out side by side on a split stage, shows Dexter [a engagingly attractive Adam Rothenberg] trying to smooth the waters with his intended, Lily [a model-stunning but ice-cold Arica Himmel], regularly interrupted by Lily’s young daughter, the type who used to be referred to as a ‘spoiled brat,’ pitch-perfectly presented by Arica Himmel.  One needs to restrain ones-self from leaving your seat and slapping this kind – sorry.  A bit of an overreaction, because of how good her performance is.

This split-screen device shows us the truth about both of these lives.  He’s about to be married, to a demanding, controlling lady.  Shellie, played with such specificity and attention by the remarkable Annie Parisse, is not a college prof at Hunter; she’s a cleaning woman and also works in a hair salon.  In addition, her disabled father Fred [a convincingly grumpy and bitter John Procaccino mostly confined to a wheelchair] demands every free moment she has, to be his care-giver, since her actual husband Kevin [a totally convincingly unlikeable Quincy Dunn-Baker], is little help, and whose only source of income seems to be selling Fred’s controlled substance meds such as oxycontin on the street.  Medical and other bills pile up, with no way to cover them.

During these parallel revelation scenes, we see the two central characters, from time to time, quietly escaping into their own private, silent reveries, seemingly fantasizing about the other, what they might have had with a different partner, like the one they shared that hotel room with, during that layover.


Dexter decides to make a move.  Using private detectives and other resources, he tracks her down, discovers her true identity, learns of the financial hole she’s in [and pays off all the bills, anonymously], and then decides to contact her.  Reluctantly, but willingly, she agrees to meet.  He has arranged for them to have that same hotel room near the Chicago airport.

The attempt-at-Hitchcock ending comes as a shock, a startling conclusion that can disappoint, if this was starting to look like that Tom Hanks – Meg Ryan picture with the happy ending.  It’s not that.  I’m afraid it’s not sure what it is.  Throughout the scene changes and short interludes, video designer Jeff Sugg manages to run scene clips from familiar film noir pictures along the back wall of the stage, which one assumes is meant to suggest that noir theme, but because they are so short and static, don’t really register.  Pity, because buried inside that fictional crime novel Shellie is reading is a real work of noir, screaming to be let out.

There’s practically no screaming, or no sounds of the human voice at all, in Bess Wohl’s startling new play “Small Mouth Sounds.”  The premise sounds rather like a grad school theatre prof’s assignment for the summer: write a play with six characters who hardly ever speak.

Wohl has done it – beautifully.


She’s placed six people on a five-day find-yourself retreat in the woods, each with a personal objective to work through.  But with almost no dialogue or conversation, we learn much about them through behavior, actions and reactions, how they do or do not follow the rules, how they interact with others.  The basic rule is simple: no talking.  It’s a silent retreat.  So it’s left to the actors to use Wohl’s stage directions, and to gifted director Rachel Chavkin’s inventive guidance, that we come to understand them.  Alicia [a model-lovely young blonde Zoe Winters] seems to be withholding some deep bitterness she can’t let out; Ned [a very specific actor with excellent timing] is a typical needy nerd, always trying to help, in hopes of connecting with a young woman, in this case Alicia; Rodney [an ideally buffed young man who manages to ease into meditation posture very easily, and yoga exercises that show off his limbre, lanky frame to advantage], who seems to present only surface concerns; Jan a skillful Max Baker, [who perfects the ability to remain perfectly silent throughout the stay]; and a lesbian cople Joan [Marcia  DeBonis] and Judy [Quincy Tyler Bernstine] who have come to get some guidance on how to deal with Quincy’s recent cancer diagnosis.

This sounds like tough going for an audience to endure.  Remarkably, the experience flies by, each segment  a master class in the best type of collaboration among cast, playwright and director, and a true testament to what theatre should be.  These are six people whose pain runs the gamut, from an invasion of nasty insect bites, to a cancer diagnosis that affect the afflicted and her partner, to someone still trying to deal with the death of a child.  In the end, it delivers what we always hope for from a new play – genuine transformation.


In the Coming soon Department:  Ruben Santiago-Hudson directs a production of August Wilson’s wonderful “Jitney,” opening on Broadway this winter . . . One of Arthur Miller’s under-appreciated masterworks, “The Price,” will open March 16 at the American Airlines Theatre, starring John Turturro and Jessica Hecht . . . and do NOT forget to take advantage of NYC & Company’s spectacular two-for-one ticket sale, going on now through September 18.  Details? Check out

On Book

As a self-defined political junkie, it was great to discover a book that combines politics and the entertainment industry.  It’s called ‘Hollywood Left and Right – How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics,” by Steven J. Ross, from Oxford University Press.  From Charlie Chaplin, through Louis B. Mayer, from George Murphy and Ronald Reagan to Jane Fonda, from Warren Beatty to Arnold Schwarzenegger, track how those bold-face names have influenced public opinion, and with it, the direction of elections and public policy.  It’s quite thorough, and a very good early fall read . . .what do George C. Scott, Annette Bening, Kate Burton, Laura Linney, Anthony LaPaglia, Mercedes  Ruehl, Christopher Reeve, Geraldine Page, Rosemary Harris, Raul Julia, Vanessa Redgrave, Maureen Stapleton and Joanne Woodward have in common?  They all passed through the stage of the original Circle in the Square [downtown at Sheridan Square, not the luxe version on west 50th street] during its early days.  Now, its head honcho during those early days, Theodore Mann, has released the comprehensive recollections of that period, published by Applause, “Journeys in the Night – Creating a New American Theatre with Circle in the Square.”  It’s style is conversational, like a journal or a diary – also an easy read, and brimming with interesting revelations about the American theatre of mid last century.


TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the PBS series about theatre ‘Character Studies.”  His play “Admissions” won the Best Play Award at the New York International Fringe Festival, and is published by Playscripts.  His play Maisie & Grover Go to the Theatre” is published by ArtAge Press.  He has written nine other plays and musicals.  His entertainment reporting has appeared in Parade, Reader’s Digest, Dramatics, Rolling Stone, The Christian Science Monitor among other publications.  He has taught theatre classes at Columbia University teachers College, the New School, HB Studio and the 92nd St. Y. among other places.  He wrote “The Test of Time,” a CableACE Award winner, for Lifetime Television.  He teaches scene study and audition prep classes from home.


CARMEL CAR & LIMOUSINE SERVICE, in business since 1978, has been selected as the official transportation company for Intermission Talk.  Its wide variety of services, including theatre packages, and reservations, are available at, the Carmel App or 212 – 666 – 6666.


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