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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
The Sound Inside
By Macey Levin

Okay. I'll help you.— Christopher
Mary Louise Parker (Photo: Carolyn Brown)
Bella Baird, a Yale University teacher of creative writing, delivers a lengthy opening monologue about her life, her parents, her students, her teaching technique, the books she's written, her virulent cancer, all in a fittingly professorial tone. It goes on and on and on as she scribbles her thoughts on a notepad in self-serving obsession. Adam Rapp's drama The Sound Inside, now in its world premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and directed by David Cromer, is built on that same tone, with occasional moments of energy and drama.

Mary-Louise Parker, a consummate actress, plays Bella as if she were physically constrained and emotionally unattached. That is, until a student, Christopher Dunn (Will Hochman), barges into her office.

As Bella describes Dunn's behavior in her class he is a solitary figure with few social relationships. He tells her he likes the class and that he is writing a novel. Their conversation moves into a discussion of his work and she advises him where to go with his writing. Next is dinner and a drink. There is no physical intimacy, but a dependence forms.

Bella and Chris's scenes together, unlike the monologues, have energy, but they also have snippets of Bella addressing us through the fourth wall in the same voice as in the original monologue. They don't break the build of a scene yet do feel interruptive.

Christopher delivers two speeches directly to the audience with vitality, but then, he is almost twenty. Despite his eccentric and intense behavior, he is likable.

When informed she only has a few months to live, Bella decides to take her life with three injections she has found detailed on the internet. She needs assistance with the last two since the first shot will benumb her. She asks Christopher.

Hochman is a refreshing newcomer. From the moment he appears we know this is a young man with angst and a defensive attitude. He is at first sullen and then demanding. As we get to know him he becomes more likable.

Rapp's plot follows a straight line with several twists. His dialogue is sometimes cryptic with relatively little humor save for a speech in which Bella describes a sexual encounter with a stranger.

In an interview Rapp explained that he got the idea for the play when he saw two young men, strangers, speaking on the platform at the New Haven train station. He has incorporated this story with embellishments into Chris's novel. There are also a number of books mentioned by Bella and Chris which Rapp claims as some of his favorites and which he uses to enhance the relationship between professor and student, and to serve as symbolic cues to the characters' core beliefs.

David Cromer, an always excellent director, may have been hampered by the script with its lengthy speeches and brooding moments. His staging would work better if several scenes of the sets designed by Alexander Woodward weren't far upstage making it visually difficult to relate to the characters.

Heather Gilbert's lighting is effective with its focus and shadows. Daniel Kluger's original music complements the play's tone.

The Silence Inside is obviously not a light entertainment vehicle, but it does have some food for thought and interesting if occasionally labored performances. It is difficult to predict if this is a radical piece of theatere a pretentious production.

Editor's Note: Adam Rapp's plays have been on our reviewing radar for a long time, starting with my review of his long monologue, Nocturne . When our backup Jenny Sandman first saw his plays she was so smitten that she declared her hopes of marrying Rapp, but of course, she married someone else and moved to another part of the country. Like The Silence Inside, none were easy escape entertainment, and quite a few were, like his latest, talky and flawed. Below are links to all these reviews.
The Hallway Trilogy
Deams of Flying, Dreams of Falling
American Sligo
Finer Noble Gases
Bingo With Indians
The Purple Lights of Joppa Illinois
Essential Self Defense
Hotel Motel
Red Light Winter
The Edge of Our Bodies
The Metal Chidren

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The Sound Inside by Adam Rapp
Directed by David Cromer
Cast: Will Hochman (Christopher Dunn) Mary-Louise Parker (Bella Baird)
Scenic Design: Alexander Woodward
Lighting Design: Heather Gilbert
Costume Design: David Hyman
Sound Design and Original Music: Daniel Kluger
Video Design: Aaron Rhyne
Stage Manager: Dane Urban
Running Time: Ninety minutes; no intermission
Williamstown Theatre Festival, Nikos Stage, Williamstown, MA
From 6/27/18; closing 7/8/18
Reviewed by Macey Levin at July 1 performance

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