Making Noise Quietly


By Robert Holmansteep theatre

Directed by Erica Weiss

At Steep Theatre, Chicago

Relatively unknown British playwright, Robert Holman, has penned three tender yet clear glimpses into humanity.

Steep Theatre seems to find new, relatively unknown British playwrights with fresh now voices to introduce to Chicago audiences.  These works are ideal for the ensemble based theatre troupe. Their latest find is Robert Holman and his three short plays titled Making Noise Quietly. These three are snapshots of the subtle consequences of war in the least expected places. In tender, often compassionate presentations of humanity, Holman deals with themes such as : desire, loss, anger, pain, rejection, and forgiveness as he develops empathetic characters as he weaves us into their world where lies and ultimate truth , listening, and where their humanity dictates to them. Holman is a writer of exquisite verbal clarity who uses  vivid images to maximum effect. No wasted words here.

In “Being Friends,”  we meet Oliver Bell (Nick Goodman) as he shirtless suns himself in a meadow in rural England in 1944. He is a Quaker consciousness objector  working on a farm. When the prim, effete Eric Faber (Josh Salt) stops  by to rest from his bicycling, the two have an instant spark of friendship (or more). Eric is an artist/writer recovering from a car accident; he is also openly gay – a daring stance in WWII Britain.  As Eric and Oliver share beers and their life stories, we see the sparks of a sexual subtext brewing. The genuineness of the two actors, their truthful performances combines with Holman’s tight lyrical writing captivates us. Each moves closer in spirit toward the other as two lonely. rejected souls push through anger toward their desires.  Their daring nude swim culminates their bond.This is a tender, heartfelt story.

robert holman

In “Lost,” Naval officer Geoffrey Church (Peter Moore) arrives at May Appleton’s (Patricia Donegan) home to speak about May’s son who was killed in the Falkland’s War, 1982. Church was the son’s friend and shipmate while the son was estranged from his family causing much pain to May. Much of this piece finds May venting on Church as she discovers that her son, who she has not heard from in over five years, was married to Church’s sister. Loss, anger and pain dominates here.

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In “Making Noise Quietly,” set in 1986 Germany, we find Helene Ensslin (Lorraine Freund), a German-Jewish camp survivor, on holiday enjoying her painting with a nine year old autistic boy, Sam (Theo Tounge) and his guardian, Alan Tadd (Craig Cunningham). We see that Sam seldom speaks, is physically abused by the anger-ridden soldier/guardian Alan. The interaction between Alan and Sam and between Sam and Helene becomes muddled. The interaction between Alan and Helene is also troubled as the man and the boy struggle to cope with their pain, anger as both fear being abandoned. As Helene tells her story of life in the concentration camps and how she struggle to survive, we realize that she possesses super strength of will. She attempts to rescue Sam and ultimately Alan in several  heart-tugging scenes.  Can Alan over come his trauma from his experiences in the Falkland’s War; can Sam actually say “please’ and “thank you?” These flawed, yet vulnerable characters grander enough empathy to make us care.

These three short plays demonstrate Robert Holman’s immense talent as a writer as he weaves a subtle glimpse into the damage that war can make in unexpected ways on common folks. Holman’s clarity and depth of character is rich in compassion and truth. The Steep ensemble, led by Josh Salt, as Eric, Patricia Donegan, as May, and Lorraine Freund, a Helene, contained strong character studies. This is a moving glimpse into the consequences of war. It is well worth seeing.

Highly Recommended

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: October 4, 2012

For more info checkout the Making Noise Quietly page at

At Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn, Chicago, IL, call 312-458-4900,, tickets $20 -$22, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, running time is 1 hour 45 minutes without an intermission, through November 10, 2012

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