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BWW Review: THE SOUND INSIDE Reverberates Online at TheaterWorks Hartford

THE SOUND INSIDE is streaming through April 30th.

BWW Review: THE SOUND INSIDE Reverberates Online at TheaterWorks Hartford
Professor Bella Baird (Maggie Bofill)
(Photo: Pedro Bermudez)

Ethical boundaries and emotional bonds fray in playwright Adam Rapp's THE SOUND INSIDE, a cryptic and creative trope-defying drama exploring a symbiotic and suspenseful Ivy League professor-student friendship. The 90-minute filmed-to-stream production from Producing Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero and Hartford filmmaker Pedro Bermudez brings the audience to a tense audio-visual threshold where an academic power dynamic morphs into an unconventional space of negotiation, conflict and resolution.

Creative writing professor Bella Baird (Maggie Bofill) forges a calm, cool and confident connection with the audience as she provides exposition of time (winter, now), place (Yale University), and identity (her tenth year as a tenured professor, currently teaching "Reading Fiction for Craft" to undergraduate English majors). She shares her status: healthy, child-free, parentless, unmarried, no siblings, and has been accused (she says drolly) of being both a lesbian and a witch. Nonplused by all of this; clearly, she is dedicated to her profession. So what's the catch?

BWW Review: THE SOUND INSIDE Reverberates Online at TheaterWorks Hartford
Christopher Dunn (Ephraim Birney)
(Photo: Pedro Bermudez)

We learn that during a lively in-class discussion of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, a student (Christopher Dunn (a brusque and brooding Ephraim Birney) in the back row declares, "Someday I'm going to write a moment like that." This not only captures Maggie's attention; it also sets in motion the trajectory for what becomes a coyly complicated writer-reader dynamic. Is it clandestine? Unclear. What we do know is that both mentor and protégé bring baggage from prior (or lack of) relationships, but neither seems particularly desperate. They relate to each other respectfully through their work; he's a budding novelist; she's a thrice-published author. Each needs the other, albeit for different reasons that reveal themselves over time.

Bofill and Birney ace the up-front-and-personal challenge of connecting to the audience through a camera lens that tends to remain in head-and-shoulder territory, save for a few scenes in an office, home and bar/restaurant. Although the play progresses and rewinds, the characters' attire and demeanor remain unchanged: she in a faded denim shirt and earth-tone sweater; he in a too-thin-for-winter gas station attendant jacket. Set changes have been edited out; subtle synthesizer underscoring echoes Bella's calculating mindset.

As the nested story of THE SOUND INSIDE unfolds, we begin to see how steady diligence pays off for the professor: while doing online research, Bella remarks, "It's truly amazing what one can accomplish over the internet." The Broadway production of THE SOUND INSIDE was nominated for six Tony Awards. Bolstered by Adam Rapp's rich writing and a seamless technical production, this streaming version of THE SOUND INSIDE is proof positive that compelling craft translates onstage, online, and represents the absolute best kind of clickbait-and-switch.

The creative team includes set designer Lawrence E. Moten III, costume designer Alejo Vietti, lighting designer Amith Chandrashaker, and composer Billy Bivona with sound recording and mixing by Massive Productions.

THE SOUND INSIDE is streaming on demand from April 11-30, 2021. Tickets, priced at $25 or $20.21 for monthly memberships, can be purchased online at www.twhartford.org or by calling (860) 527-7838.


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