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'The Sound Inside' by Adam Rapp

Now onstage at Toronto's Coal Mine Theatre

Tim Leyes

Joe Szekeres

Haunting and powerful.

Tony-nominated ‘The Sound Inside’ by Adam Rapp recently made its Toronto debut at the newly relocated Coal Mine Theatre.

Bella Baird (Moya O’Connell) is a 53-year-old tenured creative writing professor at Yale University. With this assurance in hand, one might think she lives a grateful privileged life as a university instructor. Far from it. Thanks to Laura Delchiaro’s spot-on costume design for Bella, flashy clothes on the Yale campus are not the norm for her. Dressed in a nondescript plain-looking tan sweater, slacks, and blouse, Bella reflects matter-of-factly she doesn’t have a lot of associates on campus with whom she might go to lunch during the day.

There’s a pervasive sadness about Bella. She doesn’t own a home but lives in the faculty housing on campus. She reads a lot when she is at home along with completing her responsibilities for her career.

The plot briskly moves when Bella begins to mentor a visionary and extremely intelligent but enigmatically puzzling student Christopher (Aidan Correia) who’s in her ‘Reading Fiction for Craft’ class. Christopher prefers writing in longhand, doesn’t like using email to make appointments, and hates using Twitter.

Dressed inappropriately for the fall weather on the university campus, Christopher shows up one day without an appointment during Bella’s office hours just to talk. He sports long hair, an earring, a spring jacket, loose fitting shirt, jeans, and wearing white sneakers. Although the instructor and student initially appear awkward at first, they begin to form an intense bond with each other (perhaps out of wanting to feel a sense of belonging or loneliness?). Ultimately Bella asks Christopher to do something quite unpredictable and out of the ordinary which initially surprises him as well as the audience. Will Christopher go through with this request?

Wes Babcock’s simple set design of an office desk and chair is an apt choice. The actors deftly move the set pieces around to create several scenes. The intimacy of the Coal Mine Theatre swiftly brings the plot action right into the audience’s personal space.

But something just doesn’t appear quite right even at the top of the show which intrigues even more.

Babcock’s extreme shadowy pre-show lighting casts an ominous look on Coal Mine’s intimate stage. That shadowy gloom becomes twofold in purpose. It permeated into the darkness of the house as the audience enters. Truth be told it is so dark that one audience member behind me remarked how dangerous it is if someone doesn’t have good eyesight while walking in.

Throughout the 90-minute production, Babcock’s lighting still incorporates that sense of gloom even in focusing the audience’s attention on the action and the characters.

Hmm…are we being prepped for something earth-shattering?

Yes, we are.

Leora Morris thrillingly directs the production.

Moya O’Connell and Aidan Correia sweetly savour the delicious wordplay of Adam Rapp’s thrilling script. The actors listen and hear each other while reacting and responding soundly with believable emotional impact in their chemistry. Several monologues are delivered compellingly. As Bella, O’Connell becomes a matriarchal university professor. There are moments when the actress speaks to the audience as if she delivers a typical university undergraduate lecture, and how important it is to pay attention, hear and listen to what is said.

How true that is as the plot further unravels and the truth comes out.

Correia’s glaring silent responses as Christopher gradually become unnerving. It appears as if he will explode in rage at any minute when O’Connell may either ask a question or make a comment. When Bella finally asks Christopher to do something for her, Correia’s stone-faced reaction becomes haunting.
And yet this mysterious bond between Bella and Christopher becomes fascinating. How can two individuals who appear so different from each other be drawn together?

Christopher is writing a novella and wants to share it with Bella. I smiled at this remembering what it was like to be a full-time undergraduate student taking a full course load. How could anyone even consider such a grand task? But Christopher does.

Bella does read Christopher’s work. Leora Morris’s intelligent staging amidst the shadowy lighting design again becomes completely mesmerizing. O’Connell and Correia become like chess pieces and move around the stage with purposeful intent and a clear reason why they move and remain still.

Final Comments: At times, this Toronto debut of ‘The Sound Inside’ is a mystery akin to that of Alfred Hitchcock.

But there’s more going on than just the mystery.

‘The Sound Inside’ becomes an understanding of the human psyche and asks how far individuals would go to follow through on a request that would certainly alter the course of events for everyone.

Haunting and powerful work by Moya O’Connell and Aidan Correia.

Go see ‘The Sound Inside’ A fine production indeed.

Running time: approximately 90 minutes.

The production runs until May 28 at The Coal Mine Theatre, 2076 Danforth Avenue, Toronto. For tickets, visit

Director: Leora Morris
Set, Lighting, and Prop Design: Wes Babcock
Costume Design: Laura Delchiaro
Sound Design and Music Composition: Chris Ross-Ewart
Stage Manager: Elyse Quesnel

Performers: Moya O’Connell, Aidan Correia

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