When director David Cromer got the script to The Sound Inside from Adam Rapp, he knew he had to take on the project. “When you read something great, and can’t put it down, and visualize it immediately, you have to do it, because that almost never happens,” Cromer said on opening night at Studio 54.
The two-hander play, which opened on Broadway October 17, follows Yale creative writing professor Bella and one of her students, Christopher, whose literary prowess is unmatched by any of his classmates. When Bella discovers she has cancer, she develops an intense relationship with Christopher in a story that delves into loneliness and passion for one’s work. Tony winner Mary-Louise Parker (Proof) plays Bella, while Christopher is played by Will Hochman, making his Broadway debut, .
For Parker, playing Bella taps into her career as a writer. While known for her work on stage and TV shows like Weeds, the star has also long been a writer, publishing a memoir in 2015. She enjoyed developing a character organically whose passions are similar but manifests differently. “She has a precision and her passion is emphatic, which is different from me—I’m more drifting,” she says.
As for her chemistry with Hochman on stage, the pair spent so much time together that their rapport developed quickly. Director Cromer picked up on it, too. “My favorite part is that I didn’t have to negotiate anything. They were thick as thieves right away.” The helmer also noticed that having such an established performer as Parker and someone green like Hochman created an interesting dynamic ,where the latter was open to all feedback and the former imparted wisdom that even Cromer didn’t have to offer.
The play itself is singular in its structure, too. For a majority of the play, Bella is recounting her story to the audience. That decision was made by playwright Rapp to activate and theatricalize a writer's experience. “A lot of novelists never meet their audience. It's rare when you sit across the subway from someone and they're reading your book. There's a lot of writing into the dark”
Hochman says he most relates to Christopher because he wants to be excellent in the world. Throughout the play, Christopher constantly strives to be better in his writing. Sometimes he’s open and growing; other times, he’s a petulant child, just like any freshman creative writing student can be.
Being able to tap into that character was in Rapp’s script. “All I have to do is stand on the surfboard and the wave carries me to shore,” says Hochman. “I wasn’t like Christopher growing up. I knew a lot of people who were, so it’s a mix of finding things from my own experience and drawing from things I’ve seen firsthand.”
As for the audience for this play? “Anyone,” says Cromer. “It respects the intellect and doesn’t talk down to the audience. It is about things that we don’t always talk about, but should.”