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Now Opening: ‘The Sound Inside’ Starring Mary-Louise Parker on Broadway

Category Broadway

|by Ron Fassler |


The Tony winner tackles a new challenge in this taut thriller

Mary-Louise Parker has been a working actor now for more than thirty years, moving deftly between TV, film and Broadway since she made her professional debut in the late 1980s on the ABC soap opera Ryan’s Hope. In that time, she has amassed an Emmy, two Golden Globes, and a Tony Award. Opening this week in what is the eighth Broadway show in which she has starred, finds her playing the role of a teacher with a lonely life she is forced to examine in Adam Rapp’s new play The Sound Inside at Studio 54.

Mary-Louise Parker plays Bella, a professor and novelist, in ‘The Sound Inside’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)

Mary-Louise Parker plays Bella, a professor and novelist, in ‘The Sound Inside’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)

Directed by David Cromer, who won the Tony for his elegant stewardship of The Band’s Visit, and co-starring Will Hochman (in his Broadway debut), finally brings playwright Adam Rapp to Broadway. Highly prolific and long a figure of the Off-Broadway and regional theater scene, he is also a screenwriter, director and an author whose diverse work covers everything from young adult fiction to graphic novels. He attended Julliard, has taught at the Yale School of Drama, and is also a Pulitzer Prize nominee. With all that in mind, it is surprising that The Sound Inside will mark his first play to reach Broadway. If the reviews are anything like those it received when it premiered this past July at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts, it may prove worth the wait.

A two-character study of the intense relationship between a university literature professor (and novelist) and a student, The Sound Inside delves into issues of life and death, the loneliness of writing as a profession, and the fear of falling short when personally setting the stakes high. The play opens with a near twenty-minute monologue, which Parker (in an interview with Playbill) said “…is generally not where I am comfortable…You have to keep it taut, this play. And it should be a little scary, as an experience. She’s not overburdened with the desire to make people enjoy her, let’s say.”

And it’s that knife’s edge that has always set Parker apart as an actress in everything she does. She can be intrinsically funny, as those who have seen her in her starring role in the TV series Weeds or her recurring turn on The West Wing. But for whatever reason, when Parker chooses roles to do eight times a week on Broadway, she is almost always toughing it out with characters that are possessed and wound tight (Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler comes to mind, as does her Tony Award-winning performance in Proof). Professor Bella Baird is no different. Aspects of a thriller are also part of the play’s ingenious cat-and-mouse game that is played out between her character and that of the student, Christopher Dunn, who has a mystery about him that is off-putting and attractive at the same time.

Coming in at just ninety minutes, chock-full of literary references, and tumbling down rabbit holes of deep discussions concerning art, science, life and death, The Sound Inside is a play that is likely to leave audiences with much to discuss as they exit Studio 54 on a crisp fall evening (or even after a matinee).

The show is scheduled to run through Jan. 12.   

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