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Arc Stages Hopes Audiences Make Leap of Faith for ‘The Sound Inside’

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Actors Joan Hess and Henry Temple perform in Adam Rapp’s acclaimed play “The Sound Inside” over the next three weekends at Arc Stages in Pleasantville.

You could say that Arc Stages is taking on a rather ambitious project with the upcoming performances of playwright Adam Rapp’s acclaimed work “The Sound Inside.”

Arc Stages’ professional company Next Stage is tackling a story of a creative writing professor at Yale, Bella Baird, who mentors an enigmatic student by the name of Christopher Dunn.

Professor and student are both incredible writers with brilliant minds who address some weighty topics, none more so than death through suicide, but also manage to bond despite at two very different stages of life.

“As you start to work on the play, you realize that it’s just the humanity,” said Ann-Ngaire Martin, the show’s director for Arc Stages. “Yes, it has this aura of super intellectual people, but when you get right down to it, we all die, we all are all the things they are in this play.”

“The Sound Inside” debuted at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the summer of 2018 before coming to Broadway the following year. It was recognized with six Tony Award nominations, and Mary-Louise Parker captured best actress for her portrayal of Bella. The show close shortly before the pandemic shutdown.

Martin said one of the key challenges was casting the play’s only two characters for the performances, which begin this Friday evening at Arc Stages in Pleasantville. There is a heavy volume of dialogue, including a four-page opening for Bella, and that character never leaves the stage for the roughly 90-minute, one-act production, she said.

Playing the lead role is Joan Hess, who has worked with Arc Stages twice before – in “Every Brilliant Thing” in 2018 and “The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?” last year. Henry Temple has been cast in the role of Christopher.

Martin said she envisioned Hess taking on the challenging task of portraying Bella.

“When we offered it to her, she was like I’m terrified, yet I’m excited,” Martin recalled.

One of the many aspects of the show that makes it memorable is the how Rapp is able to stay ahead of the audience and keep the story moving while remaining unpredictable. But while the play is set at an Ivy League school, and the characters are discussing Dostoevsky, Faulkner and other literary giants, it’s not a difficult-to-follow plot, said Adam Cohen, Arc Stages’ artistic director.

“It’s not like this convoluted murder mystery plot where you can’t understand it and you have to see it again and see if it makes sense,” Cohen said. “You’ll get that, but all the way around it’s beautiful and brilliant and people who enjoy that would get a lot out of seeing it.”

But Martin also offered that “The Sound Inside” could be seen as a coming-of-age story for Christopher, and where he discovers himself as a writer under the tutelage of a professor who has dedicated her life to her love of writing.

Martin said she believes that Bella and Christopher are attracted to one another simply by each other’s skills as writers.

“I really hope that people come and take the leap with us,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know the play, but I don’t know, I think it’s beautiful and it has so much to say to people.”

Friday evening’s opening is the first of seven performances over the next three weekends. Additional dates are Saturday, Feb. 3, Feb. 9-11 and Feb. 16 and 17. All shows start at 8 p.m. except for the Sunday, Feb. 11 matinee, which is at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $38 for adults, $30 for students and $28 for seniors. To buy tickets and for more information about Arc Stages, visit

Arc Stages is located at 147 Wheeler Ave. in Pleasantville.

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