The Sound Inside by Adam Rapp

Williamstown Theatre Festival PremieresTwo Plays

By: - Jul 01, 2018

The Sound Inside, by Adam Rapp
Director: David Cromer
Cast: Mary-Louise Parker and Will Hochman
Scenic Design: Alexander Woodward;  Costume Design: David Hyman;  Lighting Design: Heather Gilbert;  Original Music and Sound Design: Daniel Kluger;  Video Design: Aaron Rhyne
Williamstown Theatre Festival
Nikos Stage
World Premiere: June 27 to July 8

The Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) started its 2018 season with two new plays on June 26/27, both billed as World Premieres. The Closet, a comedy or farce, is presented on the main stage and The Sound Inside, a two person drama, fills Nikos Stage.

Adam Rapp, the playwright, worked alongside director, David Cromer, to bring The Sound Inside to life in a quiet and steady flow of words and detailed references to several authors, including books of the two writers on stage. Finally, the last scene’s unexpected revelations leave the viewer hanging with an emotional conundrum.

Mary-Louise Parker, a renowned actor, plays Bella Baird, a Creative Writing Professor at Yale. In a series of student-professor office-hour meetings she gets to know Christopher Dunn (Will Hochman). He is a curious and weird young man, emotionally mature beyond his age and also out-of-sync with current times. He rejects all digital and Internet trappings and uses a typewriter, while working on his novel. He is lightly dressed for winter, claims that because of his Vermont roots he will be fine in the cold and carries his needed belongings, notebook and eventually his finished novella in a 1950s rucksack.

Baird continues to jot down thoughts and pronouncements on an ever-present notepad. A writer’s life steadily contributes to a writer’s work. She as the protagonist in the play throughout informs us, the passive participants, about facts or thoughts that are not being said on stage. Baird teaches Fyodor Dostoyefsky’s Crime and Punishment in her creative writing class. What does Raskolnikov, the likable murderer in the novel, who gets away with his crimes, signify for this play?

During an interview with Lucy Powis, a Literary Assistant at WTF, Rapp revealed that he observed some years ago at a New Haven train station the interaction between a Yale student with a ‘towny.‘  Eventually they both boarded the train to New York City with him. And, it turned out that the student paid the fare for the resident. Rapp wrote his imagined continuation and ending of that encounter and used it as the subject matter for Christopher’s novella. Parker praised her student’s work with conviction and candor, which Christopher demanded during their final and consequential meeting.

Except for the young and convincing Hochman - still early in his acting career - Parker, Cromer and Rapp have garnered many awards over the years for their work. The 2018 Tony was among other categories awarded to The Bands Visit for best direction in a musical to Cromer. We saw the musical last January on Broadway and enjoyed it immensely, also for Cromer’s understated direction. Do we remember seeing credits for Cromer’s work on Billions, an intense Showtime series that follows the money?

Rapp has produced nearly 20 plays with theatres in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia. Among several honors, he received Boston’s Elliot Norton Award. He has also written a series of books for younger readers.

Parker plays Bella Baird with a cool, perhaps a cold intensity. She has originated roles in other plays: Georgie in Simon Stephens’ new Heisenberg play and in Proof,  by David Auburn, for which she received a Tony and several other awards. Her list of accomplishments on stage, film, as a writer, and for her humanitarian work is extensive.

Cromer took a low-key approach to directing The Sound Inside. The language is magnificent, yet a couple of scenes in the middle of the play drag, before revelations at the end creep under one's skin. Alexander Woodward staged this dark play accordingly with Heather Gilbert’s effective lighting. Daniel Kluger contributed Original Music and Sound Design and Aaron Rhyne is the videographer. Overall this 90-minutes play is a well-rounded production.

Be in the mood for thought-provoking performances.