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Broadway Review: “The Sound Inside” at Studio 54 (Through Sunday January 12, 2020)

Broadway Review: “The Sound Inside” at Studio 54 (Through Sunday January 12, 2020)
Written by Adam Rapp
Directed by David Cromer
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“In this poetic exploration of the auditory imagination, the third in his series on sonic aesthetics, Seán Street peoples silence with sound, travelling through and the shadow lands of the inner psyche. Our mind is a canvas on which the colours of the sound world leave permanent impressions. It is the root of all listening.” – “The Sound inside the Silence - Travels in the Sonic Imagination” by Seán Street (2019)

College professor Bella (a hauntingly introspective Mary-Louise Parker), with pen always in hand and her notebook not too far away, recalls the “colours of the sound world” that have left permanent impressions on her mind’s canvas in Adam Rapp’s surrealistic “The Sound Inside” currently playing at Studio 54. Unfettered by the linear constraints of realism, Rapp displays Bella’s canvas of the mind streaked with images of past events that are far from ordinary and challenge the norms of the sanctity of life and the challenges presented by physical and mental illness.

A brilliant writer and successful teacher, Bella has navigated her way through academia with distinction. She publishes (though perhaps not enough), teaches, and keeps regular office hours so her students can meet with her – until one of her students Christopher (a seemingly troubled and somewhat desperate Will Hochman) shows up without an appointment with a demanding agenda for his new mentor. Much of Christopher’s motivation for meeting with Bella seems entrenched in his confrontational and deeply philosophical weltanschauung. Despite Bella’s admonitions to make appointments to see in the future, Christopher returns repeatedly unannounced and unabashed.

Indeed, Christopher could easily be Bella’s doppelganger. They both reside just outside society’s norms and expectations; both exhibit signs of a deep brokenness; and they both have secrets that slowly are unearthed and unraveled in the course of the ninety-minute mind-bending and emotionally challenging play. Bella and Christopher expose these secrets to one another in a series of meetings at Bella’s office, the cafeteria, and at Bella’s home. These “mysteries,” ordinarily the stuff of spoiler alerts, can be revealed because what matters here is Adam Rapp’s exacting sense of mystery and miracle.

Is “The Sound Inside” a rehearsal of ‘actual’ fictional events? Do Bella and Christopher (the beautiful and the bearer of Christ) meet, or is one the imagination of the other, or both the imagining of some omniscient entity? Does Bella convince Christopher to assist her in taking her own life to escape the scourge of cancer? And is Christopher capable of sparing Bella and thereafter taking his own life? Finally, does Mr. Rapp’s invention (think music) counterpoint melodies yet to be composed in the viewer’s mind? Under David Cromer’s austere and esoteric direction, Ms. Parker and Mr. Hochman skillfully navigate the corners of the audience members’ minds projecting sound and sight on the empty canvases found there.

Heather Gilbert’s lighting easily shares the star spotlight with Mary-Louise Parker and Will Hochman. Sometimes focusing on the reality of the action (if any of the action is real) and often highlighting the surreal in Adam Rapp’s script, Gilbert’s “film noir” feel carefully sets the stage for each surprise – each revelation – that emerges from the dialogue. This is lighting that morphs from design to brilliance without notice and surrounds Alexander Woodward’s enticingly dichotomized set with wonder.

Adam Rapp explores and mines the “shadow lands of the inner psyche” in “The Sound Inside” leaving those who watch and listen scores (think music) of rich and enduring questions about “time and space, the distant past, and the infinite future” and suggests, perhaps, the journey might be accomplished with redemption and release “on the other side.”


“The Sound Inside” stars Mary-Louise Parker with Will Hochman.

The creative team includes Alexander Woodward (Scenic Design), David Hyman (Costume Design), Heather Gilbert (Lighting Design), Daniel Kluger (Original Music & Sound Design), Aaron Rhyne (Projection Design) and Telsey + Company, William Cantler CSA and Karyn Casl, CSA (Casting).

“The Sound Inside” runs at Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street) through Sunday January 12, 2020 on the following performance schedule: Tuesday-Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m., Wednesday and Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Tickets for “The Sound Inside” range from $49.00 - $169.00 and are available at or the Studio 54 Box Office. For further information, visit Running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Will Hochman and Mary-Louise Parker in “The Sound Inside.” Credit: Jeremy Daniel.
Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, November 11, 2019