Loving Details of ‘The Sound Inside’ Speak Loudly @ Cohoes Music Hall
“The Sound Inside,” now playing at Cohoes Music Hall through 11/23 is a taut, twisting tale of two souls reaching out to each other which leaves you to decide whether their relationship was beneficial to each other or not. The 2018 two-hander play by Adam Rapp which premiered at Williamstown is being given a very intense, engaging production by Creative License directed by their co-Artistic Director Aaron Holbritter.
Colleen Lovett plays Bella Baird, a published author teaching creative writing at Yale University whose solitary life is about to be punctured by a life-threatening illness and a sharp, precocious writing student named Christopher Dunn played by Russell Roberts. Bella narrates the play and the extremely demanding role has Ms. Lovett onstage for 75% of the play enthralling us with her life story and what happens to her with this snotty brat of a student who spits on her office floor in his first unscheduled office hours visit with her. Colleen invites us in and shows us around her cloistered existence whose highlights include 6-ounce filets and 30-year-old Scotch alongside her annual reading of James Salter’s memoir “Burning the Days.”
Crashing into her office and matching her taste for Dostoevsky and David Foster Wallace is Christopher Dunn who provokes her with an off-color tease of a story involving a pedophile clown and a young girl which he punctuates with a high-pitched giggle of his own. Roberts gets a big laugh out of the audience eager to side with him as a troubled yet fundamentally decent, talented young man. Bella and the audience are one in this regard. I welcomed him back into the office eagerly and couldn’t wait to hear him tell the story of the novel he is writing which finds two young men sharing a slice and some live jazz at Arturo’s on Houston Street before retreating to a room at the St. Mark’s Hotel.
There isn’t much action in this lightly staged storytelling chamber piece so we hang on the vivid detail. In fact, Bella instructs us that it is the minimal detail great authors use which draws us in and gets us to collaborate on the portrait of the character. Salinger gives us the shock of gray in the teenage Holden Caulfield’s hair and we fill in the rest. So it goes with this masterful play and production, your participation as an active, empathetic listener is recruited to bridge the gap between these two outsiders.
The stakes are raised after the two have shared dinner and Bella needs Christopher to help her once she receives a terminal cancer diagnosis. The pair who have been dancing around the possibility of being lovers are about to be even more intimate than even that relationship requires.
Roberts is perfect as the disturbingly intense Christopher. He has an awkwardness, enthusiasm and bright light which can make him sweet and angelic or taken at a different angle, rather demented.
Colleen is doing fantastic work on this huge undertaking. My favorite moments were her off-hand, wry commentary (especially her description of the one-night-stand that ended in a handshake) but watch out for her second weekend when all the work will burn hot once she gets a few more runs under her. It is an excellent performance of a harrowing role.
The spare but effective lighting design which includes total blackouts as if separating chapters is by Maya Pomazel-Flanders, book heavy set and apt costume design by Casey Polamaine and filmic sound design by Aaron Holbritter.
“The Sound Inside” looks at our loneliness, what we do to fill it and what can happen when our needs aren’t met. It is a dark, necessary reminder especially as we enter the holiday season when amidst all the good cheer, the darkness can be felt hardest of all.
“The Sound Inside” at Cohoes Music Hall through 11/23. Tickets: www.creativelicenseonline.com