Review: ‘The Sound Inside’ at Marin Theatre Company (*****)

Tyler Miclean as Christopher and Denmo Ibrahim as Bella in Marin Theatre Company’s West Coast premiere of Adam Rapp’s “The Sound Inside.” Photo Credit: Kevin Berne.

by Otto Coelho

Reviewed by a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle.

Theatre has always presented “memory” plays that stem from a character’s recollections or particular point of view, leaving it to the audience to decide if they are witnessing truth or just one version of it.  From Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” to Hugh Leonard’s “Da,” memory plays present reality as seen through the eyes of one character. Marin Theatre Company ends their season with the West Coast Premiere of Adam Rapp’s multiple Tony Award nominated “The Sound Inside,” which presents memories ranging from sweet to horrific to sad, and does so incredibly well.

Rapp has created a love letter to the written word. The characters are both writers–one a published professor of literature and the other an unpublished student wannabe. Both are as sharp as the point of a quill pen. Rapp deftly weaves a story through Bella’s recollections, her family’s past, her medical issues, and her budding relationship with her student.

Denmo Ibrahim as Bella Lee Baird carries the lion’s share of the storytelling burden, as the memories are hers. Ms. Ibrahim is wonderfully engaging and self-effacing as she describes her looks, her writing, her teaching abilities, and even her sexual escapades. Watching Ms. Ibrahim directly engage with the audience is to our advantage–it allows us to look into her delightfully expressive eyes to see clearly all of the nuanced emotion written there. Tyler Miclean plays her student, amateur novelist Christopher Dunn, with the requisite dourness of a millennial Harvard undergrad who feels that the university is simultaneously above and beneath him. Through their verbal sparring and their cozy tete-a-tetes on Bella’s pillow-strewn floor, we sense that these two will be getting their May-December on…but I will neither confirm nor deny. It’s beside the point, really. There’s much more going on here than mere collegiate hanky-panky. Jasson Minadakis directs the production with a gentle hand. Scenic designer Edward E. Haynes, Jr.’s sparce settings allow for the flexibility and shifts of memory, making the most of lighting and projection designer Mike Post’s projections which make effective use of the written words of key phrases. These projections give the impression that Bella wants to be writing these memories down–or perhaps we’re seeing a representation of Bella’s writing. Mr. Post’s lighting is shadowy, as memories tend to be, and very effective.

Fumiko Bielefeldt’s costumes are perfect, and the compositions of Implied Music/Chris Houston set the proper tone without being intrusive.

I rose to my feet at the end of  “The Sound Inside.” You might do the same.

The Sound Inside continues at Marin Theatre Company through June 19th. For further information click here.


Rating: ***** (For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

“The Sound Inside” by Adam Rapp. Produced by Marin Theatre Company. Director: Jason Mindakis. Scenic Designer: Edward E. Haynes, Jr. Costume Designer: Fumiko Bielefeldt. Lighting and Projection Designer: Mike Post. Composer: Implied Music / Chris Houston. Assistant Costume Designer: Daria Perkova. Props Designer: Liam Rudisill.


Bella: Denmo Ibrahim. Christopher: Tyler Miclean.

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