BWW Interview: Will Hochman Tunes In to THE SOUND INSIDE
We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken. -- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "Crime and Punishment"
Two supremely gifted writers, one a tenured creative writing professor at Yale, the other a freshman prodigy, balance on a taut high wire in Adam Rapp's brilliant tragedy, The Sound Inside. It's a tale about two perfect strangers who find one another on campus.
Will Hochman, 27, makes his Broadway debut as Christopher, a creative genius and enigmatic loner who eschews social media and frothy lattes. Hochman originated the role during its world premiere at the Williamstown Theater Festival 2018.
The moody drama, bathed in stark shadow and fading light, reveals an artist struggling with her craft. Bella reads her prose facing the audience, her inflection stripping away superfluous description.
Christopher arrives unannounced in Bella's office and she begrudgingly allows him to stay. Her writerly instinct is lit; she senses something powerful.
What follows is a hypnotic unveiling of two disparate writers' processes and inspirations. Fiction or fact? An unanswered question.
Hochman and Parker have won universal acclaim, as have playwright Rapp and director David Cromer. The lighting, by Heather Gilbert, is a third character. Projections by Aaron Rhyne encase the stage with scribbling and other surprising effects.
Hochman, a prolific letter writer who composes on a typewriter, is over the moon about this plum challenge.
"What excites me about being an actor is being part of something that asks the right questions," he said. "This play bravely and unflinchingly does this with humor and love.
"I was blown away when I read it," Hochman said, "it's an amazing story and this is a dream come true."
The heated chemistry between the two actors is palpable. They playfully plumb the existential dread they share.
Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment figures prominently, as do other great works of literature. Bella collects first editions, and is, as she puts it, an author of "two slim volumes of stories and one under-appreciated novel."
Although Hochman is a veritable novice on Broadway, his 18-year-old persona is thoroughly convincing, tics and all. He's a perfect foil and writing partner to Parker.
The evocative illuminations blanket the stage in indigo and faded light. Furnishings are spare. The audience is encouraged to fill in the gaps.
Hochman was viscerally attracted to Chris when he first read.
"There's something about the style of the writing, the way this play looks at the world. I felt that the part had to be mine." he said.
"I understood the sort of things that drive Chris," Hochman said. "I also want to do something well, commit to a task and recognize hypocrisy."
He met Parker by happenstance, but crossing paths was not without voltage. "She was coming out to greet actors," he recalled. "We both vibrated a little when our eyes crossed." Just as Dostoyevsky described, he noted.
Hochman wonders if an element of longing brings Chris and Bella together.
"They're two lonely people trying to make sense of their lives in a dark, lonely world."
The relationship blossoms. "Almost against their better wishes, they spend more and more time together. It's a bona fide relationship: a friendship evolves. Those are the sort of relationships that interest me in my life," Hochman said.
"There are lots of different way to evolve in the world and this play explores the gorgeousness of them."
Hochman has performed as Chris more than 100 times, growing closer and closer to the character.
"It's given me an opportunity to peel the layers," he said, "and I've discovered nuance and honesty. I approach it in a more complex way than I did a year and a half ago."
Each performance brings new challenges and choices.
"We have this nuanced, complex, dove-tailing story to tell and each show we bring something a little different," Hochman said. "I can't sing Adam's praises enough -- I'm over the moon grateful to debut with him."
He's gob-smacked by working with Parker.
"In the best moments it feels like we're really living there together in that space. Her ability to live in a thing truthfully is amazing," Hochman said. "She's a master and almost through osmosis I feel like she's given me different lenses to do the work."
Hochman might be considered a late bloomer. "I was in my first professional play three years ago," he reflected. "I had no managers at the time."
A student athlete, the Brooklyn native still plays basketball with his friends and brother. He runs on the West Side and meditates to unwind.
A headshot of his comedian grandfather, benefactor of the birthday typewriter upon which Hochman composes, decorates the dressing room.
"I hope the work lets people be connected," Hochman said. "This play asks the hard questions about things that are true."
The Sound Inside is playing at Studio 54, 254 West 54th Street.